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The Survivors of the Chancellor

We Embark On The Raft
DECEMBER 7. -- The ship was sinking rapidly; the water had risen to the fore-top; the
poop and forecastle were completely submerged; the top of the bowsprit had disap-
peared, and only the three mast-tops projected from the waves.
But all was ready on the raft; an erection had been made on the fore to hold a mast, which
was supported by shrouds fastened to the sides of the platform; this mast carried a large
royal.
Perhaps, after all, these few frail planks will carry us to the shore which the Chancellor
has failed to reach; at any rate, we cannot yet resign all hope.
We were just on the point of embarking at 7 A. M. when the Chancellor all at once began
to sink so rapidly that the carpenter and men who were on the raft were obliged with all
speed to cut the ropes that secured it to the vessel, to pre- vent it from being swallowed
up in the eddying waters.
Anxiety, the most intense, took possession of us all. At the very moment when the ship
was descending into the fathomless abyss, the raft, our only hope of safety, was drifting
off before our eyes. Two of the sailors and an apprentice, beside themselves with terror,
threw themselves headlong into the sea; but it was evident from the very first they were
quite powerless to combat the winds and waves. Escape was impossible; they could
neither reach the raft nor return to the ship. Curtis tied a rope round his waist and tried to
swim to their assistance; but long be- fore he could reach them, the unfortunate men, after
a vain struggle for life, sank below the waves and were seen no more. Curtis, bruised and
beaten with the surf that raged about the mast-heads, was hauled back to the ship.
Meantime, Dowlas and his men, by means of some spars which they used as oars, were
exerting themselves to bring back the raft, which had drifted about two cables'-lengths
away; but, in spite of all their efforts, it was fully an hour -- an hour which seemed to us,
waiting as we were with the water up to the level of the top masts, like an eternity -- be-
fore they succeeded in bringing the raft alongside, and lash- ing it once again to the
Chancellor's main-mast.
Not a moment was then to be lost. The waves were eddying like a whirlpool around the
submerged vessel, and numbers of enormous airbubbles were rising to the surface of the
water.
The time was come. At Curtis's word, "Embark!" we all hurried to the raft. Andre, who
insisted upon seeing Miss Herbey go first, was helped safely on to the platform, where
his father immediately joined him. In a very few minutes all except Curtis and old
O'Ready had left the Chancellor.
 
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