The Survivors of the Chancellor
A New Danger
NOVEMBER 24 to December1. -- Here we were then once more at sea, and although on
board a ship of which the stability was very questionable, we had hopes, if the wind
continued favorable, of reaching the coast of Guiana in the course of a few days.
Our way was southwest and consequently with the wind, and although Curtis would not
crowd on all sail lest the extra speed should have a tendency to spring the leak afresh, the
Chancellor made a progress that was quite satisfactory. Life on board began to fall back
into its former routine; the feeling of insecurity and the consciousness that we were
merely retracing our path doing much, however, to destroy the animated intercourse that
would otherwise go on be- tween passenger and passenger.
The first few days passed without any incident worth re- cording, then on the 29th, the
wind shifted to the north, and it became necessary to brace the yards, trim the sails, and
take a starboard tack. This made the ship lurch very much on one side, and as Curtis felt
that she was laboring far too heavily, he clewed up the top-gallants, prudently reckoning
that, under the circumstances, caution was far more impor- tant than speed.
The night came on dark and foggy. The breeze fresh- ened considerably, and,
unfortunately for us, hailed from the northwest. Although we carried no topsails at all, the
ship seemed to heel over more than ever. Most of the passengers had retired to their
cabins, but all the crew remained on deck, while Curtis never quitted his post upon the
Toward two o'clock in the morning I was myself prepar- ing to go to my cabin, when
Burke, one of the sailors who had been down into the hold, came on deck with the cry:
"Two feet of water below."
In an instant Curtis and the boatswain had descended the ladder. The startling news was
only too true; the sea-water was entering the hold, but whether the leak had sprung
afresh, or whether the caulking in some of the seams was insufficient, it was then
impossible to determine; all that could be done was to let the ship go with the wind, and
wait for day.
At daybreak they sounded again -- "Three feet of water!" was the report. I glanced at
Curtis -- his lips were white, but he had not lost his self-possession. He quietly in- formed
such of the passengers as were already on deck of the new danger that threatened us; it
was better that they should know the worst, and the fact could not be long con- cealed. I
told M. Letourneur that I could not help hoping that there might yet be time to reach the
land before the last crisis came. Falsten was about to give vent to an expres- sion of
despair, but he was soon silenced by Miss Herbey asserting her confidence that all would
yet be well.