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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.

Thus, in the midst of the fog, officers and sailors were obliged to keep a strict watch, which soon proved to be necessary, for about three o'clock a three-master appeared at less than two hundred yards from the 'Great Eastern,' her sails disabled by a gust of wind, and no longer answering to her helm.

To weigh anchor under these circumstances required considerable exertion, for the pressure of the tide stretched the chains by which the ship was moored, and besides this, a strong south-wester blew with full force on her hull, so that it required powerful engines to hoist the heavy anchors from their muddy beds. An anchor-boat, intended for this purpose, had just stoppered on the chains, but the windlasses were not sufficiently powerful, and they were obliged to use the steam apparatus which the 'Great Eastern' had at her disposal.

The sea was magnificent and resplendent beneath the first rays of a spring sun; not a sail in sight. The 'Great Eastern' occupied alone the centre of the immense expanse. At ten o'clock the bell on deck tolled slowly and at regular intervals; the ringer, who was a steersman, dressed in his best, managed to obtain from this bell a kind of solemn, religious tone, instead of the metallic peals with which it accompanied the whistling of the boilers, when the ship was surrounded by fog. Involuntarily one looked for the village steeple which was calling to prayer.

The 'Great Eastern' drew nearer, and, passing round, gave notice of her presence by several shrill whistles; but the waif remained silent, and unanimated; nothing was to be seen, not even a shore-boat from the wrecked vessel was visible on the wide expanse of water.

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.

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.

At two o'clock the fog grew dense again, the wind fell and rose at the same time. The thickness of the fog was so intense that the officers on the bridge could not see the men at the bows. These accumulated vapours rising from the sea constitute the greatest danger of navigation. They cause accidents which it is impossible to avoid, and a collision at sea is more to be dreaded than a fire.

She alone could store on board the 2100 miles of metallic wire weighing 4500 tons. She alone, thanks to her perfect indifference to the sea, could unroll and immerse this immense cable. But special arrangements were necessary for storing away the cable in the ship's hold. Two out of six boilers were removed, and one chimney out of three belonging to the screw engine; in their places large tanks were placed for the cable, which was immersed in water to preserve it from the effects of variation of the atmosphere; the wire thus passed from these tanks of water into the sea without suffering the least contact with the air.

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.

The steamer's course had been slightly altered in the night, three times the ship, being in water twenty-seven degrees Fahrenheit that is to say, five degrees below zero, had been turned towards the south. There was no longer any doubt of icebergs being very near, for the sky that morning had a peculiarly brilliant aspect; the atmosphere was misty, and the northern sky glittered with an intense reverberation, evidently produced by the powerful reflection from the icebergs.

I was going to reply to this wise observation, when there was a loud cry, and immediately my companion and I were hurled towards the bows; every man at the capstan-bars was knocked down; some got up again, others lay scattered on the deck. A catch had broken, and the capstan being forced round by the frightful pressure of the chains, the men, caught by the rebound, were struck violently on the head and chest. Freed from their broken rope-bands, the capstan-bars flew in all directions like grape-shot, killing four sailors, and wounding twelve others; among the latter was the boatswain, a Scotchman from Dundee.

In order to modify it, he has only to press his hand lightly on a small wheel, measuring hardly a foot in diameter, and placed within his reach. Immediately the valves open, the steam from the boilers rushes along the conducting tubes into the two cylinders of the small engine, the pistons move rapidly, and the rudder instantly obeys. If this plan succeeds, a man will be able to direct the gigantic body of the 'Great Eastern' with one finger.

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.

This steam-ship is indeed a masterpiece of naval construction; more than a vessel, it is a floating city, part of the country, detached from English soil, which after having crossed the sea, unites itself to the American Continent. I pictured to myself this enormous bulk borne on the waves, her defiant struggle with the wind, her boldness before the powerless sea, her indifference to the billows, her stability in the midst of that element which tosses 'Warriors' and 'Solferinos' like ship's boats.

A few of the more fearless stretched themselves on the sofas, reading or sleeping, as many preferred to brave the rain on deck, where the sailors, in their oil-skin jackets and glazed hats, were sedately pacing to and fro. The first officer, well wrapped in his macintosh, and perched on the bridge, was on watch, and in the midst of the hurricane his small eyes sparkled with delight This was what the little man loved, and the steamer rolled to his liking.

But my imagination carried me no farther; all these things I did indeed see during the passage, and many others which do not exclusively belong to the maritime domain. If the 'Great Eastern' is not merely a nautical engine, but rather a microcosm, and carries a small world with it, an observer will not be astonished to meet here, as on a larger theatre, all the instincts, follies, and passions of human nature.

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.

One might have thought oneself in the worst part of Upper Thames Street, near London Bridge. I walked on, following the upper decks towards the stern. Stretching on either side were two wide streets, or rather boulevards, filled with a compact crowd; thus walking, I came to the centre of the steam-ship between the paddles, united by a double set of bridges.

After the long separation which had estranged us from each other, it was for him to confide in me, and for me to await his confidences. He had told me as much of his past life as he wished me to know; his life in the Indian garrison, his hunting, and adventures; but not a word had he said of the emotions which swelled in his heart, or the cause of the sighs which heaved his breast; undoubtedly Fabian was not one who tried to lessen his grief by speaking of it, and therefore he suffered the more.

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.

Soon we came in sight of Queenstown, a small 'calling-place,' before which several fishermen's boats were at work. It is here that all ships bound for Liverpool, whether steamers or sailing-ships, throw out their despatch-bags, which are carried to Dublin in a few hours by an express train always in readiness. From Dublin they are conveyed across the channel to Holyhead by a fast steamer, so that despatches thus sent are one day in advance of the most rapid Transatlantic steamers.

The sea between us and the coast was of a dull green shade; there was a fresh breeze blowing, mists floated above the water like spray. Numerous vessels, brigs and schooners, were awaiting the tide; steamers puffing away their black smoke were soon distanced by the 'Great Eastern,' although she was going at a very moderate speed.

These wagers, amounting to several hundred dollars, he lost every one; in fact, the waif was the hull of a ship; the steamer rapidly drew near it, and we could already see the rusty copper of her keel. It was a three-mast ship of about five or six hundred tons, deprived of her masts and rigging, and lying on one side, with broken chains hanging from her davits.

The fact is, these divisions are reckoned from noon to noon, so that there are night as well as day quarters; and as it is very seldom that ships venture close in in the dark, the chance of a pilot coming on board then is very small. However, I easily consoled myself. Going down into the saloon, I saw a lecture announced.

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.

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.

But in this respect the steward knew no more than I did, and he left me to myself. I then made up my mind to visit all the ins and outs of this immense ant-hill, and began my walk like a tourist in a foreign town. A black mire that British mud which is so rarely absent from the pavement of English towns covered the deck of the steamship; dirty gutters wound here and there.

The water from the skies and sea mingled in a dense fog. The atmosphere was grey, and birds flew screeching through the damp mists. At ten o'clock a three-mast ship was hailed, sailing astern of us, but her nationality could not be recognized. So that, although the pressure of the boilers had risen, the ship's speed had not increased; but this might be attributed to the westerly wind, which caught the ship ahead, and considerably impeded her progress.

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.

All this day, the 2nd of April, the deck was deserted, even the saloons were empty, for the passengers had taken refuge in their cabins; and two-thirds of the guests were missing at lunch and dinner. Whist was impossible, for the tables glided from under the players' hands. The chess-men were unmanageable.

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.

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.

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.

On the spacious mastheads of the second and third masts a band of soldiers could easily manœuvre. Of these six masts, supported by shrouds and metallic back-stays, the second, third, and fourth are made of sheet-iron, and are really masterpieces of ironwork. At the base they measure 43 inches in diameter, and the largest (the main-mast) rises to the height of 207 French feet, which is higher than the towers of Notre Dame.

I said that the length of the 'Great Eastern' exceeded two hectometres. For the benefit of those partial to comparisons, I will add that it is a third longer than the 'Pont des Arts;' in reality this steam-ship measures 673 feet at the load water-line, between the perpendiculars; the upper deck is 680 feet from stem to stern; that is to say, its length is double that of the largest transatlantic steamers; its width amidships is about 71 feet, and behind the paddles about 107 feet.

In four days, at the latest, the 'Great Eastern' must reach New York harbour; therefore we might hope that accident would not dally with our watchfulness, and that Fabian would not discover Ellen during this time; but we made our calculations without thinking of events.

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.

It was for this delicate operation that the engineers intended the engine which they had placed at the stern. The steersman standing on the bridge between the signal apparatus of the wheels and the screw, has before his eyes a dial provided with a moving needle, which tells him every moment the position of his rudder.