The Survivors of the Chancellor HTML version

Picrate Of Potash On Board
OCTOBER 20 and 21. -- The Chancellor is now crowded with all the canvas she can
carry, and at times her topmasts threaten to snap with the pressure. But Curtis is ever on
the alert; he never leaves his post beside the man at the helm, and without compromising
the safety of the vessel, he contrives, by tacking to the breeze, to urge her on at her
utmost speed.
All day long on the 20th the passengers were assembled on the poop. Evidently they
found the heat of the cabins painfully oppressive, and most of them lay stretched upon
benches and quietly enjoyed the gentle rolling of the vessel. The increasing heat of the
deck did not reveal itself to their well-shod feet, and the constant scouring of the boards
did not excite any suspicion in their torpid minds. M. Letourneur, it is true, did express
his surprise that the crew of an ordinary merchant vessel should be distinguished by such
extraordinary cleanliness; but as I replied to him in a very casual tone, he passed no
further remark. I could not help regretting that I had given Curtis my pledge of silence,
and longed intensely to communicate the melancholy secret to the energetic Frenchman;
for at times when I re- flect upon the eight-and-twenty victims who may probably, only
too soon, be a prey to the relentless flames, my heart seems ready to burst.
The important consultation between captain, mate, lieuten- ant and boatswain has taken
place. Curtis has confided the result to me. He says that Huntly, the captain, is com-
pletely demoralized; he has lost all power and energy; and practically leaves the
command of the ship to him. It is now certain the fire is beyond control, and that sooner
or later it will burst out in full violence. The temperature of the crew's quarters has
already become almost unbearable. One solitary hope remains; it is that we may reach the
shore before the final catastrophe occurs. The Lesser Antilles are the nearest land; and
although they are some five or six hundred miles away, if the wind remains northeast
there is yet a chance of reaching them in time.
Carrying royals and studding-sails, the Chancellor during the last four-and-twenty hours
has held a steady course. M. Letourneur is the only one of all the passengers who has re-
marked the change of tack; Curtis, however, has set all speculation on his part at rest by
telling him that he wanted to get ahead of the wind, and that he was tacking to the west to
catch a favorable current.
To-day, the 21st, all has gone on as usual; and as far as the observation of the passengers
has reached, the ordinary routine has been undisturbed. Curtis indulges the hope even yet
that by excluding the air the fire may be stifled be- fore it ignites the general cargo; he
has hermetically closed every accessible aperture, and has even taken the precaution of
plugging the orifices of the pumps, under the impression that their suction-tubes, running
as they do to the bottom of the hold, may possibly be channels for conveying some
molecules of air. Altogether, he considers it a good sign that the combustion has not
betrayed itself by some external issue of smoke.