The Survivors of the Chancellor
THE night of the 29th continued. -- It was not yet mid- night; the darkness was most
profound, and we could see nothing. But was it probable that we had stranded on the
coast of America?
Very shortly after the ship had thus come to a stand-still a clanking of chains was heard
proceeding from her bows.
"That is well," said Curtis; "Walter and the boatswain have cast both the anchors. Let us
hope they will hold."
Then, clinging to the netting, he clambered along the starboard side, on which the ship
had heeled, as far as the flames would allow him. He clung to the holdfasts of the
shrouds, and in spite of the heavy seas that dashed against the vessel he maintained his
position for a considerable time, evidently listening to some sound that had caught his ear
in the midst of the tempest. In about a quarter of an hour he returned to the poop.
"Heaven be praised! " he said, "the water is coming in, and perhaps may get the better of
"True," said I, "but what then?"
"That," he replied, "is a question for bye-and-bye. We can think now only of the present."
Already I fancied that the violence of the flames was somewhat abated, and that the two
opposing elements were in fierce contention. Some plank in the ship's side was evidently
stove in, admitting free passage for the waves. But how, when the water had mastered the
fire, should we be able to master the water? Our natural course would be to use the
pumps, but these, in the very midst of the con- flagration, were quite unavailable.
For three long hours, in anxious suspense, we watched, and waited. Where we were we
could not tell. One thing alone was certain; the tide was ebbing beneath us, and the waves
were relaxing in their violence. Once let the fire be extinguished, and then, perhaps, there
would be room to hope that the next high tide would set us afloat.
Toward half-past four in the morning the curtain of fire and smoke, which had shut off
communication between the two extremities of the ship, became less dense, and we could
faintly distinguish that party of the crew who had taken refuge in the forecastle; and
before long, although it was impracticable to step upon the deck, the lieutenant and the
boatswain contrived to clamber over the gunwale, along the rails, and joined Curtis on the
Here they held a consultation, to which I was admitted. They were all of opinion that
nothing could be done until daylight should give us something of an idea of our actual