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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Were transferred to the pilot boats

were left riding only about

three times our ship's length from the threatening danger. You see, we had a drunken crew; no proper watch was kept; the captain was first roused by the thunder of the waves dashing upon the rocks; and then nothing was ready or in order, and before the anchors could be got out we were where I tell you. The anchors held, but we could not tell how long they would hold, nor how soon the force of the waves would drag us, cables and all, to the rocks. There we sat and looked at the view and situation. We hoisted a signal and fired guns of distress; but we were in front of a rocky shore that gave us little hope of either being of avail. At last, after three hours of this, the captain and some of the passengers got into the yawl and went off to find help. We, left behind, stared at the breakers. After three more hours had gone, I saw the yawl coming back, followed by another small boat, and further off by four royal pilot boats with sails. I saw them with the glass, that is, from my station in the rigging. When they came up, all the passengers except half a dozen, of whom I was one, were transferred to the pilot boats. You should have heard the jabber of the Portuguese when they came on board! But the captain had determined to try to save his brig, as by this time a slight breeze had sprung up, and I stayed with some of the others to help in the endeavour. When the rest of the passengers were safe on board the pilot boats, we set about our critical undertaking. Sails were spread, one
anchor hoisted, the cable of the other cut, and we stood holding our breath, to see whether wind or water would prove strongest. But the sails drew; the brig slowly fell off before the wind, and we edged away from our perilous position. Then, when we were fairly off, there rose a roar of shouts that rent the air; for the boats had all waited, lying a few rods off, to see what would become of us. Queen Esther, I can tell you, if I had been a woman, I should have sat down and cried; what _I_ did I won't say. As I looked back to the scene of our danger, there was a most lovely rainbow spanning it, showing in the cloud of spray that rose above the breakers.

'At six o'clock on Christmas eve I landed at Lisbon, where I got comfortable quarters in an English boarding-house. When I can get to London, I do not yet know. I am here at a great time, to see history as it is taking shape in human life and experience; something different from looking at it as cast into bronze or silver in former ages and packed up in a box of coins; hey, Queen Esther? But that's good too in its way. Your father will tell you the news.

'Your devoted subject,




Esther sat, swallowed up of excitement, poring over this letter, longer than she knew; whether it gave her most pain or pleasure she could not have told. Pleasure came in a great wave at first; and then pricks of pain began to make themselves felt, as if the pleasure wave had been full of sharp points. Her cheeks glowed, her eyes sent looks, or rather one steady look, at the paper, which would certainly have bored it through or set it on fire if moral qualities had taken to themselves material power. At last, remembering that she must not stay too long, she folded the letter up and returned to her father. He had taken _his_ letter coolly, she saw, and gone back to his book. How far his world was from hers! Absolutely, Pitt's letter was nothing to him.

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