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Meanwhile the tender approached the 'Great Eastern,' whose chains were violently strained by the pressure of the tide, and ranged up to the foot of an immense winding staircase, on the larboard side. In this position the deck of the tender was only on a level with the load water-line of the steam-ship, to which line she would be depressed when in full cargo, and which still emerged two yards.

But he was not mistaken in saying, 'A mad woman!' Ellen was mad, undoubtedly; grief, despair, love frozen in her heart, contact with the worthless man who had snatched her from Fabian, ruin, misery, and shame had broken her spirit. It was on this subject that Corsican and I spoke the following morning.

It was the reverend gentleman of whom I have before spoken a little, fidgety man, an intriguing Yankee; one of those ministers who exercise such a powerful influence over the States of New England. His sermon was already prepared, the occasion was good, and he intended to make use of it. Would not the good Yorrick have done the same? I looked at Dean Pitferge; the Doctor did not frown, but seemed inclined to try the preacher's zeal.

The 'Great Eastern' draws 30 feet of water with a cargo of 28,500 tons, and with a light cargo, from 20 to 30 feet. She is capable of receiving 10,000 passengers, so that out of the 373 principal districts in France, 274 are less populated than this floating sub-prefecture with its average number of passengers.

At half-past ten the Captain rose, and the service began; he read a chapter from the Old Testament. After each verse the congregation murmured the one following; the shrill soprano voices of the women and children distinctly separate from the baritone of the men. This Biblical dialogue lasted for about half-an-hour, and the simple, at the same time impressive ceremony, was performed with a puritanical gravity.

Before entering upon the last undertaking, the Board of Trade required that the ship's hull should undergo a strict examination. This costly operation accomplished, a long crack in her exterior plates was carefully repaired at a great expense, and the next proceeding was to fix the new boilers; the driving main-shaft of the wheels, which had been damaged during the last voyage, had to be replaced by a shaft, provided with two eccentric wheels, which insured the solidity of this important part. And now for the first time the 'Great Eastern' was to be steered by steam.

Seen from the side, these wheels looked narrow and contracted, although their paddles were four yards broad, but in front they had a monumental aspect Their elegant fittings, the arrangements of the whole plan, the stays crossing each other to support the division of the triple centre rim, the radius of red spokes, the machinery half lost in the shadow of the wide paddle-boards, all this impressed the mind, and awakened an idea of some gigantic and mysterious power.

The spectators hurried towards the unfortunate men, the wounded were taken to the hospital at the stern; as for the four already dead, preparations were immediately made to send them on shore: so lightly do Anglo-Saxons regard death, that this event made very little impression on board. These unhappy men, killed and wounded, were only tools, which could be replaced at very little expense. The tender, already some distance off, was hailed, and in a few minutes she was alongside.

First of all the anchor had to be raised. The 'Great Eastern' swung round with the tide; all was now clear, and Captain Anderson was obliged to choose this moment to set sail, for the width of the 'Great Eastern' did not allow of her turning round in the Mersey. He was more master of his ship and more certain of guiding her skilfully in the midst of the numerous boats always plying on the river when stemming the rapid current than when driven by the ebb-tide; the least collision with this gigantic body would have proved disastrous.

One would have taken her for a small island, hardly discernible in the mist. She appeared with her bows towards us, having swung round with the tide; but soon the tender altered her course, and the whole length of the steam-ship was presented to our view; she seemed what in fact she was enormous!

The workmen were now hurriedly disembarking and clambering up the numerous steps which terminated at the fore-part of the ship. I, with head upturned, and my body thrown back, surveyed the wheels of the 'Great Eastern,' like a tourist looking up at a high edifice.

From the deck rise six masts and five chimneys. The three masts in front are the 'fore-gigger' and the 'foremast' (both of them mizen-masts) and the 'main-mast.' The last three astern are the 'after-main-mast,' 'mizen-mast,' and 'after-gigger.' The fore-masts and the main-masts carry the schooner-sails, the top-sails, and the gallant-sails; the four other masts are only rigged with ordinary sails; the whole forming 5400 square yards of good canvas.

After having passed the great hatchway of the engine-rooms, I observed a 'small hotel' on my left, and then the spacious side walls of a palace surmounted by a terrace, the railings of which were being varnished. At last I reached the stern of the steam-ship, and the place I had already noticed where the scaffolding was erected.

Everything was finished by evening; not a trace of mud was visible on the well-swept boulevards, for an army of sweepers had been at work. There was a full cargo; provisions, goods, and coal filled the stewards' room, the store, and the coal houses. However, the steamer had not yet sunk to the load water-line, and did not draw the necessary thirty-three feet. It was an inconvenient position for the wheels, for the paddles not being sufficiently immersed, caused a great diminution in the speed.

About nine o'clock the bearings of the 'Great Eastern' were west-north-west I was just going on deck, when I met Captain Mac Elwin, accompanied by a friend, a tall, robust man, with a light beard and long moustache which mingled with the whiskers and left the chin bare, after the fashion of the day. This tall fellow was the exact type of an English officer; his figure was erect without stiffness, his look calm, his walk dignified but easy; his whole appearance seemed to indicate unusual courage, and I was not mistaken in him.

During this last day, however, little by little the gangways were cleared, the scaffoldings were taken down, the fly-wheel cranes disappeared, the fixing of the engines was accomplished, the last screws and nails were driven in, the reservoirs filled with oil, and the last slab rested on its metal mortise. This day the chief engineer tried the boilers.

A profound silence reigned among the congregation; the officers occupied the apsis of the church, and, in the midst of them, stood Captain Anderson, as pastor. My friend Dean Pitferge was near him, his quick little eyes running over the whole assembly. I will venture to say he was there more out of curiosity than anything else.

After having cast a rapid glance over these fitting works, I continued my walk till I reached the bows, where the carpenters were finishing the decoration of a large saloon called the 'smoking-room,' a magnificent apartment with fourteen windows; the ceiling white and gold, and wainscoted with lemon-coloured panels. Then, after having crossed a small triangular space at the bows, I reached the stem, which descends perpendicularly into the water.

Here between the last small deck cabin and the enormous gratings of the hatchways, above which rose the four wheels of the rudder, some engineers had just finished placing a steam-engine. The engine was composed of two horizontal cylinders, and presented a system of pinions, levers, and blocks which seemed to me very complicated. I did not understand at first for what it was intended, but it appeared that here, as everywhere else, the preparations were far from complete.

The crew had undoubtedly had time to leave her, but could they have reached land, which was three hundred miles off? Could a frail boat live on a sea like that which had rocked the 'Great Eastern' so frightfully? And when could this catastrophe have happened? It was evident that the shipwreck had taken place farther west, for the wind and waves must have driven the hull far out of her course. These questions were destined to remain unanswered.

The arrangements with regard to the interior are admirable. The laundries and the crew's berths are shut off at the fore-part, then come the ladies' saloon and a grand saloon ornamented with lustres, swinging lamps, and pictures. These magnificent rooms are lighted by side sky-lights, supported on elegant-gilded pillars, and communicate with the upper-deck by wide staircases with metallic steps and mahogany balusters.

The engine-rooms were full of steam; leaning over the hatchway, enveloped in a hot mist, I could see nothing, but I heard the long pistons groaning, and the huge cylinders noisily swaying to and fro on their solid swing blocks. The muddy waters of the Mersey were lashed into foam by the slowly revolving paddle-wheels; at the stern, the screw beat the waves with its four blades; the two engines, entirely independent of each other, were in complete working order.

For five days operations continued with distracting activity. These delays considerably affected the enterprize of the freighters, but the contractors could do no more. The day for setting sail was irrevocably settled for the 26th of March. The 25th still saw the deck strewn with all kinds of tools.

At this moment numerous groups appeared at the doors of the cabins, at the bows and stern; the boulevards were soon filled with men, women, and children carefully dressed for the occasion. Friends exchanged quiet greetings; every one held a Prayer-book in his hand, and all were waiting for the last bell which would announce the beginning of service. I saw also piles of Bibles, which were to be distributed in the church, heaped upon trays generally used for sandwiches.

No land in sight; we had doubled Cape Clear in the night, and around us was that vast circumference bounded by the line, where water and sky appear to meet. The slate-coloured sea broke in great foamless billows. The 'Great Eastern' struck amidships, and, supported by no sail, rolled frightfully, her bare masts describing immense circles in the air. There was no heaving to speak of, but the rolling was dreadful, it was impossible to stand upright. The officer on watch, clinging to the bridge, looked as if he was in a swing.

Corsican and I could no longer doubt but that it was Ellen, Fabian's betrothed, and Harry Drake's wife. Chance had brought all three together on the same ship. Fabian had not recognized her, although he had cried, 'It is she, it is she!' and how was it possible that he could have done so?

First of all, during the service, although the weather was fine, and we might have gained some knots, the Captain did not order the sails to be hoisted, as it would have been 'improper.' I thought myself very fortunate that the screw was allowed to continue its work, and when I inquired of a fierce Puritan the reason for this tolerance, Sir, said he to me, that which comes directly from God must be respected; the wind is in His hand, the steam is in the power of man. I was willing to content myself with this reason, and in the meantime observed what was going on on board.

I heard the irregular roaring of the screw, and the wheels beating the water, sometimes entirely immersed, and at others striking the empty air; by all these signs I concluded that the wind had freshened, and the steam-ship was no longer indifferent to the billows.

The Utah missionary was going to hold a meeting on Mormonism; a good opportunity for those wishing to initiate themselves in the mysteries of the City of Saints; besides, this Elder, Mr. Hatch, was an orator of no mean power. The execution could not fail to be worthy of the work. The announcement of the conference was received very favourably by the passengers.

Captain Anderson assuming the office of pastor on board, in the midst of the vast ocean, and speaking to a crowd of listeners, hanging, as it were, over the verge of an abyss, claimed the respect and attention of the most indifferent. It would have been well if the service had concluded with the reading; but when the Captain had finished a speaker arose, who could not fail to arouse feelings of violence and rebellion where tolerance and meditation should reign.

The hull of the 'Great Eastern' is proof against the most formidable seas; it is double, and is composed of a number of cells placed between the deck and hold; besides these, thirteen compartments, separated by water-tight partitions, increase the security against fire or the inlet of water. Ten thousand tons of iron were used in the construction of this hull, and 3,000,000 rivets secured the iron plates on her sides.

The 'Great Eastern' was freighted to the amount of 25,000 francs a month. Two contracts were arranged with G. Forrester and Co., of Liverpool, the first to the amount of 538,750 francs, for making new boilers for the screw; the second to the amount of 662,500 francs for general repairs, and fixings on board.

The lines of the 'Great Eastern' are very elongated; her straight stem is pierced with hawse-holes, through which the anchor-chains pass; no signs of dents or protuberances are to be seen on her finely-cut bows, but the slight sweep of her rounded stern somewhat mars the general effect.

At six o'clock next morning, after passing a sleepless night, I got up and dressed myself, as well as I could with one hand, while with the other I clutched at the sides of my cabin, for without support it was impossible to keep one's feet, and I had quite a serious struggle to get on my overcoat. I left my cabin, and helping myself with hands and feet through the billows of luggage, I crossed the saloon, scrambling up the stairs on my knees, like a Roman peasant devoutly climbing the steps of the 'Scala santa' of Pontius Pilate; and at last, reaching the deck, I hung on firmly to the nearest kevel.

It was a Canadian, the Honourable MacAlpine, who undertook the management of the affair. He easily collected ninety-six players, including several professed gamblers, not the least among those ready for gain. I, following the general example, staked my dollar, and fate allotted me the ninety-fourth quarter; it was a bad number, and one which left me no chance of profit.