Angus blows his whistle for silence, and the grumbling growl of voices dies down. Mr Britt stands, unsteadily (he is clearly still a little shocked) and begins to make a speech:

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he begins. Then repeats himself: “Ladies and Gentlemen. As you can see, our boat is overcrowded and undermanned. There are precisely fifty-four of us in a space intended for thirty at the most. What is more, Mr. Ironside and Miss Taggart’s injuries preclude them from sitting upright with the rest of us, so we will have to leave them where they are for the time being. I am Mr. Sidney Britt, the ship’s master, and I am in command of this boat. I would remind you that there are no passengers on board a life-boat, and that everyone will be expected to pull their weight.”

“First of all, I should like to know if there is anyone among you who has any medical experience, however slight.”

“How about the Doctor, there?” shouts out one of the men in the crowd, indicating Doctor Taskar.

Taskar sits sullen and quiet, taking no notice of the discussion.

Britt pauses, but seeing no response, is about to move on when Diana speaks up perkily:

“My name is Mrs. Jarman, Diana Jarman, sir. I’m a trained nurse, and I’ll be happy to do anything I can.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Jarman. I would remind the rest of you that I shall expect you to assist with managing the boat. That may involve such duties as rowing during calm periods as well as keeping a look-out at night.”

“I will not disguise from you that we are starting with certain disadvantages. We only have half of the drinking water we should have, so we’ll start right away on short rations. Mr Macdonald will issue each of you with two tablespoonfuls of water each day, one in the morning and one in the evening.”

There is a little gasping and murmuring at this, and Angus scowls at the turn the speech is taking.

“As we have quite a few leaks, I shall also have to ask you to help us with bailing out the boat.”

Belatedly aware of the effect his words are having, he concludes:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, if we all pull together and do our best, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t get through this together. The Captain and I have determined on making for Saint Helena, five hundred miles due north of here, and as you can see, we are already making good progress.”

No comments: