The Survivors of the Chancellor
Oxide Of Copper Poisoning
JANUARY 9 and10. -- On the 9th the wind dropped, and there was a dead calm; not a
ripple disturbed the surface of the long undulations as they rose and fell beneath us; and if
it were not for the slight current which is carrying us we know not whither, the raft would
be absolutely stationary.
The heat was intolerable; our thirst more intolerable still; and now it was that for the first
time I fully realized how the insufficiency of drink could cause torture more unendurable
than the pangs of hunger. Mouth, throat, pharynx, all alike were parched and dry, every
gland becoming hard as horn under the action of the hot air we breathed. At my urgent
solicitation, the captain was for once induced to double our allowance of water; and this
relaxation of the ordinary rule enabled us to attempt to slake our thirst four times in the
day, instead of only twice. I use the word "attempt" advisedly; for the water at the bottom
of the barrel though kept covered by a sail, became so warm that it was perfectly flat and
It was a most trying day, and the sailors relapsed into a condition of deep despondency.
The moon was nearly full, but when she rose the breeze did not return. Continuance of
high temperature in daytime is a sure proof that we have been carried far to the south, and
here, on this illimitable ocean, we have long ceased even to look for land; it might almost
seem as though this globe of ours had veritably be- come a liquid sphere!
To-day we are still becalmed, and the temperature is as high as ever. The air is heated
like a furnace, and the sun scorches like fire. The torments of famine are all forgotten; our
thoughts are concentrated with fevered expectation upon the longed-for moment when
Curtis shall dole out the scanty measure of lukewarm water that makes up our ration. Oh
for one good draught, even if it should exhaust the whole supply! At least, it seems as if
we then could die in peace!
About noon we were startled by sharp cries of agony, and looking round, I saw Owen
writhing in the most horrible convulsions. I went toward him, for, detestable as his con-
duct had been, common humanity prompted me to see whether I could afford him any
relief. But before I reached him, a shout from Flaypole arrested my attention. The man
was up in the mast, and with great excitement pointing to the east.
"A ship! A ship!" he cried.
In an instant all were on their feet. Even Owen stopped his cries and stood erect. It was
quite true that in the direc- tion indicated by Flaypole there was a white speck visible
upon the horizon. But did it move? Would the sailors with their keen vision pronounce it
to be a sail? A silence the most profound fell upon us all. I glanced at Curtis as he stood
with folded arms intently gazing at the distant point. His brow was furrowed, and he
contracted every fea- ture, as with half-closed eyes he concentrated his power of vision
upon that one faint spot in the far off horizon.