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The Survivors of the Chancellor

Between Fire And Water
OCTOBER 24 to 29. -- For the last five days the sea has been very heavy, and although
the Chancellor sails with wind and wave in her favor, yet her progress is considerably im-
peded. Here on board this veritable fire-ship I cannot help contemplating with a longing
eye this vast ocean that sur- rounds us. The water supply should be all we need.
"Why not bore the deck?" I said to Curtis. "Why not admit the water by tons into the
hold? What could be the harm? The fire would be quenched; and what would be easier
than to pump the water out again?"
"I have already told you, Mr. Kazallon," said Curtis, "that the very moment we admit the
air, the flames will rush forth to the very top of the masts. No; we must have cour- age
and patience; we must wait. There is nothing whatever to be done, except to close every
aperture."
The fire continued to progress even more rapidly than we had hitherto suspected. The
heat gradually drove the pas- sengers nearly all on deck, and the two stern cabins, lighted,
as I said, by their windows in the aft-board were the only quarters below that were
inhabitable. Of these Mrs. Kear occupied one, and Curtis reserved the other for Ruby,
who, a raving maniac, had to be kept rigidly under restraint. I went down occasionally to
see him, but invariably found him in a state of abject terror, uttering horrible shrieks, as
though possessed with the idea that he was being scorched by the most excruciating heat.
Once or twice, too, I looked in upon the ex-captain. He was always calm and spoke quite
rationally on any subject except his own profession; but in connection with that he prated
away the merest nonsense. He suffered greatly, but steadily declined all my offers of
attention, and pertina- ciously refused to leave his cabin.
To-day, an acrid, nauseating smoke made its way through the panelings that partition off
the quarters of the crew. At once Curtis ordered the partition to be enveloped in wet tar-
paulin, but the fumes penetrated even this, and filled the whole neighborhood of the
ship's bows with a reeking vapor that was positively stifling. As we listened, too, we
could hear a dull rumbling sound, but we were as mystified as ever to comprehend where
the air could have entered that was evidently fanning the flames. Only too certainly, it
was now becoming a question not of days nor even of hours before we must be prepared
for the final catastrophe. The sea was still running high, and escape by the boats was
plainly impossible. Fortunately, as I have said, the main- mast and the mizzen are of iron;
otherwise the great heat at their base would long ago have brought them down and our
chances of safety would have been very much imperiled; but by crowding on sail the
Chancellor in the full northeast wind continued to make her way with undiminished
speed.
It is now a fortnight since the fire was first discovered, and the proper working of the ship
has gradually become a more and more difficult matter. Even with thick shoes any
 
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