"Man overboard!"It rang in Felix Thurstan's ears like the sound of a bell. He gazed about him in dismay, wondering what had happened.The first intimation he received of the accident was that sudden sharp cry from the bo'sun's mate. Almost before he had fully taken it in, in all its meaning, another voice, farther aft, took up the cry once more in an altered form: "A lady! a lady! Somebody overboard! Great heavens, it is her! It's Miss Ellis! Miss Ellis!"Next instant Felix found himself, he knew not how, struggling in a wild grapple with the dark, black water. A woman was clinging to him-clinging for dear life. But he couldn't have told you himself that minute how it all took place. He was too stunned and dazzled.He looked around him on the seething sea in a sudden awakening, as it were, to life and consciousness. All about, the great water stretched dark and tumultuous. White breakers surged over him. Far ahead the steamer's lights gleamed red and green in long lines upon the ocean. At first they ran fast; then they slackened somewhat. She was surely slowing now; they must be reversing engines and trying to stop her. They would put out a boat. But what hope, what chance of rescue by night, in such a wild waste of waves as that? And Muriel Ellis was clinging to him for dear life all the while, with the despairing clutch of a half-drowned woman!The people on the Australasian, for their part, knew better what had occurred. There was bustle and confusion enough on deck and on the captain's bridge, to be sure: "Man overboard!"-three sharp rings at the engine bell:-"Stop her short!-reverse engines!-lower the gig!-look sharp, there, all of you!" Passengers hurried up breathless at the first alarm to know what was the matter. Sailors loosened and lowered the boat from the davits with extraordinary quickness. Officers stood by, giving orders in monosyllables with practised calm. All was hurry and turmoil, yet with a marvellous sense of order and prompt obedience as well. But, at any rate, the people on deck hadn't the swift swirl of the boisterous water, the hampering wet clothes, the pervading consciousness of personal danger, to make their brains reel, like Felix Thurstan's. They could ask one another with comparative composure what had happened on board; they could listen without terror to the story of the accident.
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About the Author
Charles Grant Blairfindie Allen (1848 - 1899) was a Canadian science writer and novelist and a proponent of the theory of evolution. Allen was born near Kingston, Canada West (known as Ontario after Confederation), the second son of Catharine Ann Grant and the Rev. Joseph Antisell Allen, a Protestant minister from Dublin, Ireland. Allen was educated at home until, at age 13, he and his parents moved to the United States, then to France and finally to the United Kingdom. He was educated at King Edward's School in Birmingham and at Merton College in Oxford, both in the United Kingdom. After graduation, Allen studied in France, taught at Brighton College in 1870-71 and in his mid-twenties became a professor at Queen's College, a black college in Jamaica. Despite his religious father, Allen became an agnostic and a socialist. After leaving his professorship, in 1876 he returned to England, where he turned his talents to writing, gaining a reputation for his essays on science and for literary works.