The Survivors of the Chancellor HTML version
Fire On Board
OCTOBER 15 to October 18. -- The wind is still in the northeast. There is no change in
the Chancellor's course, and to an unprejudiced eye all would appear to be going on as
usual. But I have an uneasy consciousness that some- thing is not quite right. Why should
the hatchways be so hermetically closed as though a mutinous crew was im- prisoned
between decks? I can not help thinking too that there is something in the sailors so
constantly standing in groups and breaking off their talk so suddenly whenever we
approach; and several times I have caught the word "hatches" which arrested M.
Letourneur's attention on the night of the disturbance.
On the 15th, while I was walking on the forecastle, I over- heard one of the sailors, a man
named Owen, say to his mates:
"Now I just give you all warning that I am not going to wait until the last minute.
Everyone for himself, say I."
"Why, what do you mean to do?" asked Jynxstrop, the cook.
"Pshaw!" said Owen, "do you suppose that longboats were only made for porpoises?"
Something at that moment occurred to interrupt the con- versation, and I heard no more.
It occurred to me whether there was not some conspiracy among the crew, of which
probably Curtis had already detected the symptoms. I am quite aware that some sailors
are most rebelliously disposed, and required to be ruled with a rod of iron.
Yesterday and to-day I have observed Curtis remonstrat- ing somewhat vehemently with
Captain Huntly, but there is no obvious result arising from their interviews; the cap- tain
apparently being bent upon some purpose, of which it is only too manifest that the mate
Captain Huntly is undoubtedly laboring under strong nervous excitement; and M.
Letourneur has more than once remarked how silent he has become at meal-times; for al-
though Curtis continually endeavors to start some subject of general interest, yet neither
Mr. Falsten, Mr. Kear, nor Mr. Ruby are the men to take it up, and consequently the
conversation flags hopelessly, and soon drops. The pas- sengers too are now, with good
cause, beginning to murmur at the length of the voyage, and Mr. Kear, who considers that
the very elements ought to yield to his convenience, lets the captain know by his
consequential and haughty manner that he holds him responsible for the delay.
During the course of yesterday the mate gave repeated orders for the deck to be watered
again and again, and al- though as a general rule this is a business which is done, once for
all, in the early morning, the crew did not utter a word of complaint at the additional
work thus imposed upon them. The tarpaulins on the hatches have thus been kept con-
tinually wet, so that their close and heavy texture is rendered quite impervious to the air.