CHAPTER I. FAREWELL TO OLD ENGLAND.

The thirty extra tons of spare sails, spars, and provisions, the fifteen tons of water, and the eighty-four tons of coal, made a great difference in our buoyancy, and the sea came popping in and out at the most unexpected places; much to the delight of the children, who, with bare feet and legs, and armed with mops and sponges, waged mimic war against the intruder and each other, singing and dancing to their hearts' content. This amusement was occasionally interrupted by a heavier roll than usual, sending them all into the lee scuppers, sousing them from head to foot, and necessitating a thorough change of clothing, despite their urgent protest that sea-water never hurt anybody.

After our five o'clock dinner, however, we very nearly met with a most serious accident. We were all sitting or standing about the stern of the vessel, admiring the magnificent dark blue billows following us, with their curling white crests, mountains high. Each wave, as it approached, appeared as if it must overwhelm us, instead of which, it rushed grandly by, rolling and shaking us from stem to stern, and sending fountains of spray on board.

Tom was looking at the stern compass, Allnutt being close to him. Mr. Bingham and Mr. Freer were smoking, half-way between the quarter-deck and the after-companion, where Captain Brown, Dr. Potter, Muriel, and I, were standing. Captain Lecky, seated on a large coil of rope, placed on the box of the rudder, was spinning Mabelle a yarn. A new hand was steering, and just at the moment when an unusually big wave overtook us, he unfortunately allowed the vessel to broach-to a little. In a second the sea came pouring over the stern, above Allnutt's head. The boy was nearly washed overboard, but he managed to catch hold of the rail, and, with great presence of mind, stuck his knees into the bulwarks. Kindred, our boatswain, seeing his danger, rushed forward to save him, but was knocked down by the return wave, from which he emerged gasping. The coil of rope, on which Captain Lecky and Mabelle were seated, was completely floated by the sea. Providentially, however, he had taken a double turn round his wrist with a reefing point, and, throwing his other arm round Mabelle, held on like grim death; otherwise nothing could have saved them. She was perfectly self-possessed, and only said quietly, 'Hold on, Captain Lecky, hold on!' to which he replied, 'All right.' I asked her afterwards if she thought she was going overboard, and she answered, 'I did not think at all, mamma, but felt sure we were gone.' Captain Lecky, being accustomed to very large ships, had not in the least realised how near we were to the water in our little vessel, and was proportionately taken by surprise. All the rest of the party were drenched, with the exception of Muriel, whom Captain Brown held high above the water in his arms, and who lost no time in remarking, in the midst of the general confusion, 'I'm not at all wet, I'm not.' Happily, the children don't know what fear is. The maids, however, were very frightened, as some of the sea had got down into the nursery, and the skylights had to be screwed down. Our studding-sail boom, too, broke with a loud crack when the ship broached-to, and the jaws of the fore-boom gave way.

Soon after this adventure we all went to bed, full of thankfulness that it had ended as well as it did; but, alas, not, so far as I was concerned, to rest in peace. In about two hours I was awakened by a tremendous weight of water suddenly descending upon me and flooding the bed. I immediately sprang out, only to find myself in another pool on the floor. It was pitch dark, and I could not think what had happened; so I rushed on deck, and found that, the weather having moderated a little, some kind sailor, knowing my love of fresh air, had opened the skylight rather too soon; and one of the angry waves had popped on board, deluging the cabin.

I got a light, and proceeded to mop up, as best I could, and then endeavoured to find a dry place to sleep in. This, however, was no easy task, for my own bed was drenched, and every other berth occupied. The deck, too, was ankle-deep in water, as I found when I tried to get across to the deck-house sofa. At last I lay down on the floor, wrapped up in my ulster, and wedged between the foot stanchion of our swing bed and the wardrobe athwart-ship; so that as the yacht rolled heavily, my feet were often higher than my head. Consequently, what sleep I snatched turned into nightmare, of which the fixed idea was a broken head from the three hundredweight of lead at the bottom of our bed, swinging wildly from side to side and up and down, as the vessel rolled and pitched, suggesting all manner of accidents. When morning came at last, the weather cleared a good deal, though the breeze continued. All hands were soon busily employed in repairing damages; and very picturesque the deck and rigging of the 'Sunbeam' looked, with the various groups of men, occupied upon the ropes, spars, and sails. Towards evening the wind fell light, and we had to get up steam. The night was the first really warm one we had enjoyed, and the stars shone out brightly. The sea, which had been of a lovely blue colour during the day, showed a slight phosphorescence after dark.

Thursday, July 13th. - When I went on deck, at half-past six, I found a grey, steamy, calm morning, promising a very hot day, without wind.