Charles Dickens

A stretch of shore had been as yet between us and the steamer's

smoke, by reason of the bend and wind of the river; but now she was

visible, coming head on. I called to Herbert and Startop to keep

before the tide, that she might see us lying by for her, and I

adjured Provis to sit quite still, wrapped in his cloak. He

answered cheerily, "Trust to me, dear boy," and sat like a statue.

Meantime the galley, which was very skilfully handled, had crossed

us, let us come up with her, and fallen alongside. Leaving just

room enough for the play of the oars, she kept alongside, drifting

when we drifted, and pulling a stroke or two when we pulled. Of the

two sitters one held the rudder lines, and looked at us attentively

- as did all the rowers; the other sitter was wrapped up, much as

Provis was, and seemed to shrink, and whisper some instruction to

the steerer as he looked at us. Not a word was spoken in either


Startop could make out, after a few minutes, which steamer was

first, and gave me the word "Hamburg," in a low voice as we sat

face to face. She was nearing us very fast, and the beating of her

peddles grew louder and louder. I felt as if her shadow were

absolutely upon us, when the galley hailed us. I answered.

"You have a returned Transport there," said the man who held the

lines. "That's the man, wrapped in the cloak. His name is Abel

Magwitch, otherwise Provis. I apprehend that man, and call upon him

to surrender, and you to assist."

At the same moment, without giving any audible direction to his

crew, he ran the galley abroad of us. They had pulled one sudden

stroke ahead, had got their oars in, had run athwart us, and were

holding on to our gunwale, before we knew what they were doing.

This caused great confusion on board the steamer, and I heard them

calling to us, and heard the order given to stop the paddles, and

heard them stop, but felt her driving down upon us irresistibly. In

the same moment, I saw the steersman of the galley lay his hand on

his prisoner's shoulder, and saw that both boats were swinging

round with the force of the tide, and saw that all hands on board

the steamer were running forward quite frantically. Still in the

same moment, I saw the prisoner start up, lean across his captor,

and pull the cloak from the neck of the shrinking sitter in the

galley. Still in the same moment, I saw that the face disclosed,

was the face of the other convict of long ago. Still in the same

moment, I saw the face tilt backward with a white terror on it that

I shall never forget, and heard a great cry on board the steamer

and a loud splash in the water, and felt the boat sink from under


It was but for an instant that I seemed to struggle with a thousand

mill-weirs and a thousand flashes of light; that instant past, I

was taken on board the galley. Herbert was there, and Startop was

there; but our boat was gone, and the two convicts were gone.

What with the cries aboard the steamer, and the furious blowing off

of her steam, and her driving on, and our driving on, I could not

at first distinguish sky from water or shore from shore; but, the

crew of the galley righted her with great speed, and, pulling

certain swift strong strokes ahead, lay upon their oars, every man

looking silently and eagerly at the water astern. Presently a dark

object was seen in it, bearing towards us on the tide. No man

spoke, but the steersman held up his hand, and all softly backed

water, and kept the boat straight and true before it. As it came

nearer, I saw it to be Magwitch, swimming, but not swimming freely.

He was taken on board, and instantly manacled at the wrists and


The galley was kept steady, and the silent eager look-out at the

water was resumed. But, the Rotterdam steamer now came up, and

apparently not understanding what had happened, came on at speed.

By the time she had been hailed and stopped, both steamers were

drifting away from us, and we were rising and falling in a troubled

wake of water.