The cheerfulness of the fireside is not sacrificed; there is still the open grate in every room, but at the back of the firestove there is an air-box or case which, distinct from the chimney, communicates by an opening with the outer air, and by another opening with the room.
Tom Adams was out on the fore air-box, lifting the haul-off warp out of the cheek, a perilous spot, when the sea was seen; he had just time to get back and clasp both arms round the foremast as the sea broke, overwhelming lifeboat and the crew and the captain of the Royal Arch, who was aft, in a white smother of foam.
Indeed, to venture out on this air-box in ordinary weather is by no means prudent, but on this night, when it was literally raked by weighty seas sufficient in strength to tear a limpet from its grip, the peril of doing so was extreme, but still, out on that fore air-box, determined to do or die, crept Richard Roberts, at that time the second coxswain of the lifeboat, leading the forlorn hope of rescue, and not counting his life dear to him.
I have seen times when the blasts of hot air from my furnace have blown one of my poems off my table across the room." "Great Scott!" cried Peters. "What a cyclone of an air-box you must have!" Fortunately the winter season was on, and we were able to test the capacity of the furnace, with gratifying results.
The heavy rollers drove the lifeboat before them like a feather, and end on towards the wreck, till her cable brought her up with a jerk. The strain of these jerks was so great, that, even though Roberts eased his cable, each wave seemed to all hands as if it would tear the after air-box out of the lifeboat, or drag the lifeboat itself in two pieces.
In this mighty hoist the port bilge-piece of the lifeboat as she descended struck the top rail of the vessel's bulwarks, and the collision stove in her fore air-box. That she was not turned clean over by the shock, throwing out of her, and then falling on, her crew, was only by God's mercy. All attempts to help the seamen on the wreck in distress were suspended and buried in the wave.
Something had to be done to get them, and to get them the men in the lifeboat were determined. Now the fore air-box of the lifeboat has a round roof like a tortoise's back, and there is a very imperfect hand-hold on it.
But though the lifeboat rode plunging alongside, she rode alongside at a distance of twenty yards from the wreck, and had to be steered and sheered, though at anchor, just as if she was in motion. At the helm, therefore, stood the two coxswains, while round the foremast and close to the fore air-box grouped the lifeboatmen.