The Island of Doctor Moreau HTML version
In the Dingey of the Lady Vain
I DO not propose to add anything to what has already been written concerning the loss of
the "Lady Vain." As everyone knows, she collided with a derelict when ten days out from
Callao. The longboat, with seven of the crew, was picked up eighteen days after by H. M.
gunboat "Myrtle," and the story of their terrible privations has become quite as well
known as the far more horrible "Medusa" case. But I have to add to the published story of
the "Lady Vain" another, possibly as horrible and far stranger. It has hitherto been
supposed that the four men who were in the dingey perished, but this is incorrect. I have
the best of evidence for this assertion: I was one of the four men.
But in the first place I must state that there never were four men in the dingey,--the
number was three. Constans, who was "seen by the captain to jump into the gig," [Note:
Daily News, March 17, 1887] luckily for us and unluckily for himself did not reach us.
He came down out of the tangle of ropes under the stays of the smashed bowsprit, some
small rope caught his heel as he let go, and he hung for a moment head downward, and
then fell and struck a block or spar floating in the water. We pulled towards him, but he
never came up.
I say lucky for us he did not reach us, and I might almost say luckily for himself; for we
had only a small breaker of water and some soddened ship's biscuits with us, so sudden
had been the alarm, so unprepared the ship for any disaster. We thought the people on the
launch would be better provisioned (though it seems they were not), and we tried to hail
them. They could not have heard us, and the next morning when the drizzle cleared,--
which was not until past midday,--we could see nothing of them. We could not stand up
to look about us, because of the pitching of the boat. The two other men who had escaped
so far with me were a man named Helmar, a passenger like myself, and a seaman whose
name I don't know,-- a short sturdy man, with a stammer.
We drifted famishing, and, after our water had come to an end, tormented by an
intolerable thirst, for eight days altogether. After the second day the sea subsided slowly
to a glassy calm. It is quite impossible for the ordinary reader to imagine those eight days.
He has not, luckily for himself, anything in his memory to imagine with. After the first
day we said little to one another, and lay in our places in the boat and stared at the
horizon, or watched, with eyes that grew larger and more haggard every day, the misery
and weakness gaining upon our companions. The sun became pitiless. The water ended
on the fourth day, and we were already thinking strange things and saying them with our
eyes; but it was, I think, the sixth before Helmar gave voice to the thing we had all been
thinking. I remember our voices were dry and thin, so that we bent towards one another
and spared our words. I stood out against it with all my might, was rather for scuttling the
boat and perishing together among the sharks that followed us; but when Helmar said that
if his proposal was accepted we should have drink, the sailor came round to him.
I would not draw lots however, and in the night the sailor whispered to Helmar again and
again, and I sat in the bows with my clasp-knife in my hand, though I doubt if I had the