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me! Mr. Swayne, could you find the first sheet? Aunt Carola does write so small, and crosses so! Here it is now then! Are Alice, do sit down;
you all comfortable? looking over fidgets me.' And Violet, having well fidgeted every one else, began to read,
6 Dear Brother and dearest Violet,
'When you hear of all we have gone through lately, you will feel, as we do, most thankful for our preservation.' And then she broke off. It is dated San Francisco,' she said, and it is Mrs. Matthew Darell who writes.' And then she went on. 'We meant, as you know, to visit England in the summer, but as my little twins fell ill the doctor recommended an earlier start, as the sea voyage would be the best cure for them; so we set off three weeks since.'
'Set off three weeks since,' said Alice, and yet they are at San Francisco!'
'Oh, do keep quiet! or how can I go on?' said Violet; 'it will all explain itself,' and she read on.
'It was rather inconvenient for me, as my nurse had just fallen ill and grew worse instead of better: we would have waited for her, only that little Leonard grew more pining each day, and I was afraid to delay our journey. Matthew arranged it all, however, and suggested sending one of his English hands as far as Panama with us, to look after the children. At first I objected, for I thought it so odd to have a man-nurse; but when he came, a fresh, honest-looking lad of seventeen,' and Violet stopped and nodded violently at Mrs. Weir, 'I quite took a fancy to him.
'It was very inconvenient to Matthew to spare him, but I am sure I have reason to bless the day that Roger Weir joined our party. It seems he comes from your neighbourhood, so you must let his friends know
There were listening as
all about him. We got on very well at first. Roger took all the trouble of the children off me, which was a great comfort, as I am such a bad sailor. I did just strug gle on deck three days after we sailed; it was Sunday morning, and the lad had got all the little ones round him talking to them about his home and the school, and how you used to teach him. two or three of the sailors well. I think he must be a downright good lad, this Roger; indeed I am sure of it, from all I have since known of him. I forgot to mention that our steamer was a large one, with over three hundred passengers, and, Matthew told me, treasure of the value of nearly 200,000l. chiefly in gold, consigned to bankers in England, France, and New York. This, however, was not generally known, as it is not always safe in this part of the world to trust in a mixed multitude. The weather was very tolerable; not much sea on, though enough to make me uncomfortable: at nights, however, even I managed to sleep, and the children behaved exactly as if they were in their own beds at home. We had two small cabins close together; your little godchild, Violet, slept in mine, and Roger took the twin-boys in his. We had been just a week at sea, and I was half asleep in the early morning, when a sudden shock thrilled through the vessel. I was out of my berth in a moment, and had thrown on my dressing-gown to make inquiries-for, though no other shock came, the vessel was still trembling all over-when Roger came to the door with my boys. "Stay here, ma'am, and I'll be back directly," he said; "and please dress the little ones. Don't be frightened at the screaming, it'll be the steerage passengers." Wasn't it thoughtful of him to try and quiet my mind? For the moment I was too busy
trying to put a few clothes on the children. to think of anything else; I felt the ship must have struck on something, and knew if there was any danger we must take to the boats, so I busied myself buttoning on little petticoats and jackets. In a few minutes Roger was back again and helping me. It was a dense fog, he said, and, as far as he could gather, the vessel was on a sandbank near shore. That sounded hopeful, but we were evidently in some danger, not only from without but within. For a time there was the greatest disorder and terror among both passengers and crew. Captain Jenkins and his officers armed themselves, and declared their intention of shooting down the first man who did not obey orders. Roger and I carried the three children on deck, but we could see nothing all round for the fog. Presently they called out, 'Man the life-boats!' The steerage passengers then made a rush, but the Captain was prepared; he knocked the revolver out of the first man's hand, and pointed his own at the crowd. "Keep quiet, and you shall all be saved," he said. Some gentlemen, cabin passengers, then went about among the poor frightened creatures, for they were mad with panic, and their excitement calmed down. The boats were rapidly lowered, and the women and children put in first; it was lucky for me that I and my little ones were told off for the second boat, as by that means Roger was allowed to accompany us: he had Leonard and Francis, one in each arm. I don't know what I could have done if I had lost sight of him, for little Violet was screaming with terror. It was a comfort to see the coast when the fog cleared off a little; it was not 300 yards distant, and the first boat landing its passengers safely, and returning for a fresh cargo, gave confidence to the poor creatures waiting to be rescued. If our Captain had not been
firm and bold there might have been terrible confusion and loss of life, for it was known that the steamer had received such injury that to save her was impossible. As it was the whole of the passengers were safely landed, and the boats went backwards and forwards the rest of the day bringing provisions and necessaries. Tents were rigged up for the ladies and children on the sand, for the coast was flat and barren, and known to be at least fifty miles distant from any human habitation. It was chilly and desolate for us, only half clothed as many were; but it would have been far worse had it been hot weather, for then hundreds must have died for want of shelter
from the blazing sun. Towards evening Roger came and whispered to me, that if he did not soon return I must not wonder, as he was wanted to go with the boats to the wreck. It seems the Captain had held a consultation with some of the treasureowners among the passengers, and they had come to the conclusion that it was the only safe course to bring it all on shore, and bury it in the sand, till some other vessel could carry it away. This, however, was a difficult matter to accomplish, as it was necessary to keep the plan secret if possible. Two or three of the crew were all the Captain could trust; Roger was another chosen out for the service, and one or two gentlemen interested in the matter made up the party. The heavy boxes were brought on shore as provisions, and secretly buried in holes dug at night under shelter of our tents. It was very anxious work, for people out here will commit any crime for the love of gold, and among five hundred souls there must be some black sheep. I was very glad when Roger told me the treasure was all safely disposed of without exciting any suspicion.'
(To be continued.)