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A Sad Story., Issue 8008, 10 September 1889
A Sad Story.
In ‘The Last Voyage of the Sunbeam,’ the late Lady Brassey writes as follows : “ Over the memory of the latter portion of this day (February 15) I wish that I could draw a veil ; but, sad as is the story, and littlo as I desire to dwell upon it, it must be told. Travelling, visiting, and sight-seeing had so completely occupied our time in India that I had found, upon my return to Bombay, a vast accumulation of letters from England and elsewhere requiring attention ; and as it was far beyond my strength to deal with them without assistance, I considered myself fortunate In securing the services, as temporary secretary, of a gentleman whom wo had met at Bombay, and who had been strongly recommended to us. Mr Frank White was at that time engaged on the staff of the * Bombay Gazette,’ and, as special correspondent, had accompanied the present as well as the former Governor of Bombay upon their official tours. Now, however, he was about to leave India in order to take up an appointment on the Melbourne ‘ Argus,’ and we, as a matter of mutual convenience, afforded him a passage to Australia in the Sunbeam, which he accepted, apparently with delight. These brief facts will account for his presence on board the Sunbeam. At luncheon to-day Mr White was cheerful and full of conversation, giving us an interesting description of the annual migration of the members of the Bombay Government to Poona during the season of rains and monsoons. We had, as usual, coffee, cigarettes, and a little gossip on deck before recommencing our quiet occupations of reading or writing. Mr White strolled aft, and I soon became immersed in my book. I suddenly perceived a change in the vessel’s movement, as though the helmsman were neglecting his duties, and directly afterwards heard the thrilling cry of ‘Man overboard!’ Of course a great commotion ensued, the men rushing up from below, all eager to render assistance. I ran aft, whence tho cry had proceeded, seizing a life-buoy as I passed, but found that one had already been thrown over by the man at the helm, who exclaimed ‘ That gentleman ’ (meaning poor Mr White) ‘ has jumped overboard.’ A boat was lowered, a man was sent up to the crosstrees, another on to the deckhouse to keep a lookout, and the ship was put about ia an incredibly short space of time. In tho meanwhile hasty preparation of hot bottles, blankets, and other remedies was made on board, in case tho boat should happily ho successful in her search. But although she rowed over the spot many times, and picked up Mr White’s helmet and tho lifebuoy, nothing more could be discovered. Tho agonised interest with which that littlo boat was watched by all on board will always live in my memory. Two men had jumped into her just as they had rushed on deck, without shirts or hats to protect them from tho burning sun. All on board worked with a will to got the vessel round and to lower every stitch of sail no easy matter with every kite set, and the yacht running from ten to twelve knots before the wind. From letters left behind it was perfectly clear that a determination of many days past had just been accomplished. It appeared that Mr White had questioned the doctor who littlo suspected his object—as to how it would take to stop the vessel when running with studding sails set before a strong breezs. The unhappy man had constantly complained of inability to sleep, and he had been seen on deck the previous night long after everybody else had gone to bed, _Of the motive for the rash act it is impossible to form an opinion. Borne down by physical and mental suffering, he must have been overcome by a temporary aberration of intellect, which rendered him for the moment irresponsible for his actions. I need not dwell on the terrible shock which the dreadful catastrophe caused to our hitherto happy little party. The evening was a sad one, and not even the excitement of making the lights off Goa, bringing the ship up, and anchoring for tho night, or the prospect of an interesting excursion to-morrow, could raise our spirits or dissipate the depression caused by the sad event of the afternoon. ”
A Sad Story., Issue 8008, 10 September 1889
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