The Survivors of the Chancellor
The Sargasso Sea
OCTOBER 8 to October 13. -- The wind is blowing hard from the northeast, and the
Chancellor, under low-reefed top-sail and fore-sail, and laboring against a heavy sea, has
been obliged to be brought ahull. The joists and girders all creak again until one's teeth
are set on edge. I am the only passenger not remaining below; but I prefer being on deck
notwithstanding the driving rain, fine as dust, which penetrates to the very skin. We have
been driven along in this fashion for the best part of two days; the "stiffish breeze" has
gradually freshened into "a gale"; the top- gallants have been lowered, and, as I write, the
wind is blowing with a velocity of fifty or sixty miles an hour. Al- though the Chancellor
has many good points, her drift is considerable, and we have been carried far to the south;
we can only guess at our precise position, as the cloudy at- mosphere entirely precludes
us from taking the sun's alti- tude.
All along, throughout this period, my fellow-passengers are totally ignorant of the
extraordinary course that we are taking. England lies to the northeast, yet we are sailing
directly southeast, and Robert Curtis owns that he is quite be- wildered; he cannot
comprehend why the captain, ever since this northeasterly gale has been blowing, should
persist in allowing the ship to drive to the south, instead of tacking to the northwest until
she gets into better quarters.
I was alone with Robert Curtis to-day upon the poop, and could not help saying to him,
"Curtis, is your captain mad?"
"Perhaps, sir, I might be allowed to ask what YOU think upon that matter," was his
"Well, to say the truth," I answered. "I can hardly tell; but I confess there is every now
and then a wandering in his eye, and an odd look on his face that I do not like. Have you
ever sailed with him before?"
"No; this is our first voyage together. Again last night I spoke to him about the route we
were taking, but he only said he knew all about it, and that it was all right."
"What do Lieutenant Walter and your boatswain think of it all?" I inquired.
"Think; why, they think just the same as I do," replied the mate; "but if the captain
chooses to take the ship to China we should obey his orders."
"But surely," I exclaimed, "there must be some limit to your obedience! Suppose the man
is actually mad, what then?"
"If he should be mad enough, Mr. Kazallon, to bring the vessel into any real danger, I
shall know what to do."