The Survivors of the Chancellor by Jules Verne - HTML preview
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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 disappeared, 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.
Curtis remained standing on the main-top, deeming it not only his duty, but his right, to be the last to leave the vessel he had loved so well, and the loss of which he so much de- plored.
All eyes were fixed upon the spot where the Chancellor lay foundering. The top of the mizzen was the first to dis- appear, then followed the main-top; and soon, of what had been a noble vessel, not a vestige was to be seen.
Our Situation Critical
WILL this frail boat, forty feet by twenty, bear us in safety? Sink it cannot; the material of which it is com- posed is of a kind that must surmount the waves. But it is questionable whether it will hold together. The cords that bind it will have a tremendous strain to bear in resist- ing the violence of the sea. The most sanguine among us trembles to face the future; the most confident dares to think only of the present. After the manifold perils of the last seventy-two days' voyage all are too agitated to look forward without dismay to what in all human probability must be a time of the direst distress.Vain as the task may seem, I will not pause in my work of registering the events of our drama, as scene after scene they are unfolded before our eyes.
Of the twenty-eight persons who left Charleston in the Chancellor, only eighteen are left to huddle together upon this narrow raft; this number includes the five passengers, namely, M. Letourneur, Andre, Miss Herbey, Falsten, and myself; the ship's officers, Captain Curtis, Lieutenant Wal- ter, the boatswain, Hobart the steward, Jynxstrop the cook, and Dowlas the carpenter; and seven sailors, Austin, Owen, Wilson, O'Ready, Burke, Sandon, and Flaypole.Such are the passengers on the raft; it is but a brief task to enumerate their resources.
The greater part of the provisions in the store-room were destroyed at the time when the ship's deck was submerged, and the small quantity that Curtis has been able to save will be very inadequate to supply the wants of eighteen people, who too probably have many days to wait ere they sight either land or a passing vessel. One cask of biscuit, an- other of preserved meat, a small keg of brandy, and two barrels of water complete our store, so that the utmost frugality in the distribution of our daily rations becomes absolutely necessary.
Of spare clothes we have positively none; a few sails will serve for shelter by day, and covering by night. Dowlas has his carpenter's tools, we have each a pocket- knife, and O'Ready an old tin pot, of which he takes the most tender care; in addition to these, we are in possession of a sextant, a compass, a chart, and a metal tea-kettle, everything else that was placed on deck in readiness for the first raft having been lost in the partial submersion of the vessel.
Such then is our situation; critical indeed, but after all perhaps not desperate. We have one great fear; some there are among us whose courage, moral as well as physical, may give way, and over failing spirits such as these we may have no control.
First Day On The RaftDECEMBER 7 continued. -- Our first day on the raft has passed without any special incident. At eight o'clock this morning Curtis asked our attention for a moment.
"My friends," he said, "listen to me. Here on this raft, just as when we were on board the Chancellor, I consider myself your captain; and as your captain, I expect that all of you will strictly obey my orders. Let me beg of you, one and all, to think solely of our common welfare; let us work with one heart and with one soul, and may Heaven protect us!"
After delivering these few words with an emotion that evidenced their earnestness, the captain consulted his com- pass, and found that the freshening breeze was blowing from the north. This was fortunate for us, and no time was to be lost in taking advantage of it to speed us on our dubious way. Dowlas was occupied in fixing the mast into the socket that had already been prepared for its reception, and in order to support it more firmly he placed spurs of wood, forming arched buttresses, on either side. While he was thus employed the boatswain and the other seamen were stretching the large royal sail on the yard that had been reserved for that purpose.
By half-past nine the mast was hoisted, and held firmly in its place by some shrouds attached securely to the sides of the raft; then the sail was run up and trimmed to the wind, and the raft began to make a perceptible progress under the brisk breeze.
As soon as we had once started, the carpenter set to work to contrive some sort of a rudder, that would enable us to maintain our desired direction. Curtis and Falsten assisted him with some serviceable suggestions, and in a couple of hours' time he had made and fixed to the back of the raft a kind of paddle, very similar to those used by the Malays.
At noon, after the necessary preliminary observations, Curtis took the altitude of the sun. The result gave lat. 15 deg. 7' N. by long. 49 deg. 35' W. as our position, which, on consulting the chart, proved to be about 650 miles northeast of the coast of Paramaribo in Dutch Guiana.
Now even under the most favorable circumstances, with trade-winds and weather always in our favor, we can not by any chance hope to make more than ten or twelve miles a day, so that the voyage cannot possibly be performed under a period of two months. To be sure there is the hope to be indulged that we may fall in with a passing vessel, but as the part of the Atlantic into which we have been driven is intermediate between the tracks of the French and English transatlantic steamers either from the Antilles or the Brazils, we cannot reckon at all upon a contingency happen- ing in our favor; while if a calm should set in, or worse still, if the wind were to blow from the east, not only two months, but twice, nay, three times that length of time will be required to accomplish the passage. At best, however, our provisions, even though used with the greatest care, will barely last three months. Curtis has called us into consultation, and as the working of the raft does not require such labor as to exhaust our physical strength, all have agreed to submit to a regimen which, although it will suffice to keep us alive, will certainly not fully satisfy the cravings of hunger and thirst.
As far as we can estimate we have somewhere about 500 lbs. of meat and about the same quantity of biscuit. To make this last for three months we ought not to consume very much more than 5 lbs. a day of each, which, when divided among eighteen people, will make the daily ration 5 oz. of meat and 5 oz. of biscuit for each person. Of water we have certainly not more than 200 gallons, but by reduc- ing each person's allowance to a pint a day, we hope to eke out that, too, over the space of three months.
It is arranged that the food shall be distributed under the boatswain's superintendence every morning at ten o'clock. Each person will then receive his allowance of meat and bis- cuit, which may be eaten when and how he pleases. The water will be given out twice a day -- at ten in the morn- ing and six in the evening; but as the only drinkingvessels in our possession are the teakettle and the old Irishman's tin pot, the water has to be consumed immediately on distribu- tion. As for the brandy, of which there are only five gallons, it will be doled out with the strictest limitation, and no one will be allowed to touch it except with the captain's express permission.
I should not forget that there are two sources from which we may hope to increase our store. First, any rain that may fall will add to our supply of water, and two empty barrels have been placed ready to receive it; secondly, we hope to do something in the way of fishing, and the sailors have already begun to prepare some lines.
All have mutually agreed to abide by the rules that have been laid down, for all are fully aware that by nothing but the most precise regimen can we hope to avert the horrors of famine, and forewarned by the fate of many who in similar circumstances have miserably perished, we are determined to do all that prudence can suggest for hus- banding our stores.
We Catch A Supply Of Fish
DECEMBER 8 to 17. -- When night came we wrapped our- selves in our sails. For my own part, worn out with the fatigue of the long watch in the top-mast, I slept for several hours; M. Letourneur and Andre did the same, and Miss Herbey obtained sufficient rest to relieve the tired expression that her countenance had lately being wearing. The night passed quietly. As the raft was not very heavily laden the waves did not break over it at all, and we were consequently able to keep ourselves perfectly dry. To say the truth, it was far better for us that the sea should remain somewhat boisterous, for any diminution in the swell of the waves would indicate that the wind had dropped, and it was with a feeling of regret that when the morning came I had to note down "weather calm" in my journal.
In these low latitudes the heat in the day-time is so in- tense, and the sun burns with such an incessant glare, that the entire atmosphere becomes pervaded with a glowing vapor. The wind, too, blows only in fitful gusts, and through long intervals of perfect calm the sails flap idly and uselessly against the mast. Curtis and the boatswain, how- ever, are of opinion that we are not entirely dependent on the wind. Certain indications, which a sailor's eye alone could detect, make them almost sure that we are being carried along by a westerly current, that flows at the rate of three or four miles an hour. If they are not mistaken, this is a circumstance that may materially assist our pro- gress, and at which we can hardly fail to rejoice, for the high temperature often makes our scanty allowance of water quite inadequate to allay our thirst.
But with all our hardships I must confess that our con- dition is far preferable to what it was when we were still clinging to the Chancellor. Here at least we have a comparatively solid platform beneath our feet, and we are re- lieved from the incessant dread of being carried down with a foundering vessel. In the day time we can move about with a certain amount of freedom, discuss the weather, watch the sea, and examine our fishing-lines; while at night we can rest securely under the shelter of our sails.
"I really think, Mr. Kazallon," said Andre Letourneur to me a few days after we had embarked, "that our time on board the raft passes as pleasantly as it did upon Ham Rock; and the raft has one advantage even over the reef, for it is capable of motion.""Yes, Andre," I replied, "as long as the wind continues favorable the raft has decidedly the advantage; but sup- posing the wind shifts; what then?" "Oh, we mustn't think about that," he said; "let us keep up our courage while we can."
I felt that he was right, and that the dangers we had escaped should make us more hopeful for the future; and I think that nearly all of us are inclined to share his opin- ion. Whether the captain is equally sanguine I am unable to say. He holds himself very much aloof, and as he evi- dently feels that he has the great responsibility of saving other lives than his own, we are reluctant to disturb his silent meditations.
Such of the crew as are not on watch spend the greater portion of their time in dozing on the fore part of the raft. The aft, by the captain's orders, has been reserved for the use of us passengers, and by erecting some uprights we have contrived to make a sort of tent, which affords some shelter from the sun. On the whole our bill of health is tolerably satisfactory. Lieutenant Walter is the only invalid, and he, in spite of all our careful nursing, seems to get weaker every day.
Andre Letourneur is the life of our party, and I have never appreciated the young man so well. His originality of perception makes his conversation both lively and in- teresting, and as he talks, his wan and suffering countenance lights up with an intelligent animation. His father seems to become more devoted to him than ever, and I have seen him sit for an hour at a time, with his hand resting on his son's, listening eagerly to his every word.
Miss Herbey occasionally joins in our conversation, but although we all do our best to make her forget that she has lost those who should have been her natural protectors, M. Letourneur is the only one among us to whom she speaks without a certain reserve. To him, whose age gives him something of the authority of a father, she has told the his- tory of her life -- a life of patience and self-denial such as not unfrequently falls to the lot of orphans. She had been, she said, two years with Mrs. Kear, and although now left alone in the world, homeless and without resources, hope for the future does not fail her. The young lady's modest deportment and energy of character command the respect of all on board, and I do not think that even the coarsest of the sailors has either by word or gesture acted toward her in a way that she could deem offensive.
The 12th, 13th, and 14th of December passed away with- out any change in our condition. The wind continued to blow in irregular gusts, but always in the same direction, and the helm, or rather the paddle at the back of the raft, has never once required shifting; and the watch, who are posted on the fore, under orders to examine the sea with the most scrupulous attention, have had no change of any kind to report.
At the end of the week we found ourselves growing ac- customed to our limited diet, and as we had no manual exer- tion, and no wear and tear of our physical constitution, we managed very well. Our greatest deprivation was the short supply of water, for, as I said before, the unmitigated heat made our thirst at times very painful.
On the 15th we held high festival. A shoal of fish, of the sparus tribe, swarmed round the raft, and although our tackle consisted merely of long cords baited with morsels of dried meat stuck upon bent nails, the fish were so voracious that in the course of a couple of days we had caught as many as weighed almost 200 lbs., some of which were grilled, and others boiled in sea-water over a fire made on the fore part of the raft. This marvelous haul was doubly welcome, in- asmuch as it not only afforded us a change of diet, but enabled us to economize our stores; if only some rain had fallen at the same time we would have been more than satisfied.
Unfortunately the shoal of fish did not remain long in our vicinity. On the 17th they all disappeared, and some sharks, not less than twelve or fifteen feet long, belonging to the species of the spotted dog-fish, took their place. These horrible creatures have black backs and fins, covered with white spots and stripes. Here, on our low raft, we seemed almost on a level with them, and more than once their tails have struck the spars with terrible violence. The sailors manage to keep them at a distance by means of handspikes, but I shall not be surprised if they persist in following us, instinctively intelligent that we are destined to become their prey. For myself, I confess that they give me a feeling of uneasiness; they seem to me like monsters of ill-omen.
Mutiny On The Raft
DECEMBER 18 to 20. -- On the 18th the wind freshened a little, but as it blew from the same favorable quarter we did not complain, and only took the precaution of putting an extra support to the mast, so that it should not snap with the tension of the sail. This done, the raft was carried along with something more than its ordinary speed, and left a long line of foam in its wake.
In the afternoon the sky became slightly over-clouded, and the heat consequently less oppressive. The swell made it more difficult for the raft to keep its balance, and we shipped two or three heavy seas; but the carpenter managed to make with some planks a kind of wall about a couple of feet high, which protected us from the direct action of the waves. Our casks of food and water were secured to the raft with double ropes, for we dared not run the risk of their being carried overboard, an accident that would at once have reduced us to the direst distress.
In the course of the day the sailors gathered some of the marine plants known by the name of sargassos, very similar to those we saw in such profusion between the Bermudas and Ham Rock. I advised my companions to chew the laminary tangles, which they would find contained a saccharine juice, affording considerable relief to their parched lips and throats.
The remainder of the day passed without incident. I should not, however, omit to mention that the frequent con- ferences held among the sailors, especially between Owen, Burke, Flaypole, Wilson, and Jynxstrop, the negro, aroused some uneasy suspicions in my mind. What was the sub- ject of their conversation I could not discover, for they became silent immediately that a passenger or one of the officers approached them. When I mentioned the matter to Curtis I found he had already noticed these secret in- terviews, and that they had given him enough concern to make him determined to keep a strict eye upon Jynxstrop and Owen, who, rascals as they were themselves, were evi- dently trying to disaffect their mates.
On the 19th the heat was again excessive. The sky was cloudless, and as there was not enough wind to fill the sail the raft lay motionless upon the surface of the water. Some of the sailors found a transient alleviation for their thirst by plunging into the sea, but as we were fully aware that the water all around was infested with sharks, none of us was rash enough to follow their example, though if, as seems likely, we remain long becalmed, we shall probably in time overcome our fears, and feel constrained to indulge ourselves with a bath.
The health of Lieutenant Walter continues to cause us grave anxiety, the young man being weakened by attacks of intermittent fever. Except for the loss of the medicinechest we might have temporarily reduced this by quinine; but it is only too evident that the poor fellow is consump- tive, and that that hopeless malady is making ravages upon him that no medicine could permanently arrest. His sharp, dry cough, his short breathing, his profuse perspirations, more especially in the morning; the pinched-in nose, the hollow cheeks, of which the general pallor is only relieved by a hectic flush, the contracted lips, the too brilliant eye and wasted form -- all bear witness to a slow but sure de- cay.
To-day, the 20th, the temperature is as high as ever, and the raft still motionless. The rays of the sun penetrate even through the shelter of our tent, where we sit literally gasp- ing with the heat. The impatience with which we awaited the moment when the boatswain should dole out our meager allowance of water, and the eagerness with which those lukewarm drops were swallowed, can only be realized by those who for themselves have endured the agonies of thirst.
Lieutenant Walter suffers more than any of us from the scarcity of water, and I noticed that Miss Herbey reserved almost the whole of her own share for his use. Kind and compassionate as ever, the young girl does all that lies in her power to relieve the poor fellow's sufferings."Mr. Kazallon," she said to me this morning, "that young man gets manifestly weaker every day." "Yes, Miss Herbey," I replied, "and how sorrowful it is that we can do nothing for him, absolutely nothing." "Hush!" she said, with her wonted consideration, "per- haps he will hear what we are saying." And then she sat down near the edge of the raft, where, with her head resting on her hands, she remained lost in thought.
An incident sufficiently unpleasant occurred to-day. For nearly an hour Owen, Flaypole, Burke and Jynxstrop had been engaged in close conversation and, although their voices were low, their gestures had betrayed that they were animated by some strong excitement. At the conclusion of the colloquy Owen got up and walked deliberately to the quarter of the raft that has been reserved for the use of the passengers."Where are you off to now, Owen?" said the boatswain. "That's my business," said the man insolently, and pur- sued his course. The boatswain was about to stop him, but before he could interfere Curtis was standing and looking Owen steadily in the face. "Ah, captain, I've got a word from my mates to say to you," he said, with all the effrontery imaginable.
"Say on, then," said the captain coolly. "We should like to know about that little keg of brandy. Is it being kept for the porpoises or the officers?"Finding that he obtained no reply, he went on: "Look here, captain, what we want is to have our grog served out every morning as usual." "Then you certainly will not," said the captain. "What! what!" exclaimed Owen, "don't you mean to let us have our grog?" "Once and for all, no."
For a moment, with a malicious grin upon his lips, Owen stood confronting the captain; then, as though thinking bet- ter of himself, he turned round and rejoined his companions, who were still talking together in an undertone.When I was afterward discussing the matter with Curtis, I asked him whether he was sure he had done right in re- fusing the brandy. "Right!" he cried, "to be sure I have. Allow those men to have brandy! I would throw it all overboard first."
DECEMBER 21. -- No further disturbance has taken place among the men. For a few hours the fish appeared again, and we caught a great many of them, and stored them away in an empty barrel. This addition to our stock of pro- visions makes us hope that food, at least, will not fail us.
Usually the nights in the tropics are cool, but to-day, as the evening drew on, the wonted freshness did not return, but the air remained stifling and oppressive, while heavy masses of vapor hung over the water.
There was no moonlight; there would be a new moon at half-past one in the morning, but the night was singularly dark, except for dazzling flashes of summer lightning that from time to time illuminated the horizon far and wide. There was, however, no answering roll of thunder, and the silence of the atmosphere seemed almost awful.
For a couple of hours, in the vain hope of catching a breath of air, Miss Herbey, Andre Letourneur, and I, sat watching the imposing struggle of the electric vapors. The clouds appeared like embattled turrets crested with flame, and the very sailors, coarse-minded men as they were, seemed struck with the grandeur of the spectacle, and re- garded attentively, though with an anxious eye, the pre- liminary tokens of a coming storm. Until midnight we kept our seats upon the stern of the raft, while the lightning ever and again shed around us a livid glare similar to that produced by adding salt to lighted alcohol."Are you afraid of a storm. Miss Herbey?" said Andre to the girl.
"No, Mr. Andre, my feelings are always rather those of awe than of fear," she replied. "I consider a storm one of the sublimest phenomena that we can behold -- don't you think so too?"
"Yes, and especially when the thunder is pealing," he said; "that majestic rolling, far different to the sharp crash of artillery, rises and falls like the long-drawn notes of the grandest music, and I can safely say that the tones of the most accomplished artiste have never moved me like that in- comparable voice of nature.""Rather a deep bass, though," I said, laughing. "That may be," he answered; "but I wish we might hear it now, for this silent lightning is somewhat unexpressive." "Never mind that, Andre," I said; "enjoy a storm when it comes, if you like, but pray don't wish for it." "And why not?" said he; "a storm will bring us wind, you know." "And water, too," added Miss Herbey, "the water of which we are so seriously in need."
The young people evidently wished to regard the storm from their own point of view, and although I could have opposed plenty of common sense to their poetical sentiments, I said no more, but let them talk on as they pleased for fully an hour.
Meanwhile the sky was becoming quite over-clouded, and after the zodiacal constellations had disappeared in the mists that hung round the horizon, one by one the stars above our heads were veiled in dark rolling masses of vapor, from which every instant there issued forth sheets of electricity that formed a vivid background to the dark gray fragments of cloud that floated beneath.
Sleep, even if we wished it, would have been impossible in that stifling temperature. The lightning increased in brilliancy and appeared from all quarters of the horizon, each flash covering large arcs, varying from l00 deg. to 150 deg., leaving the atmosphere pervaded by one incessant phos- phorescent glow.
The thunder became at length more and more distinct, the reports, if I may use the expression, being "round," rather than rolling. It seemed almost as though the sky were padded with heavy clouds of which the elasticity muffled the sound of the electric bursts.
Hitherto, the sea had been calm, almost stagnant as a pond. Now, however, long undulations took place, which the sailors recognized, all too well, as being the rebound pro- duced by a distant tempest. A ship, in such a case, would have been instantly brought ahull, but no maneuvering could be applied to our raft, which could only drift before the blast.
At one o'clock in the morning one vivid flash, followed, after the interval of a few seconds, by a loud report of thunder, announced that the storm was rapidly approaching. Suddenly the horizon was enveloped in a vaporous fog, and seemed to contract until it was close around us. At the same instant the voice of one of the sailors was heard shout- ing:"A squall! a squall!"
Two Sailors Washed Overboard
DECEMBER 21, night. -- The boatswain rushed to the halliards that supported the sail, and instantly lowered the yard; not a moment too soon, for with the speed of an arrow the squall was upon us, and if it had not been for the sailor's timely warning we must all have been knocked down and probably precipitated into the sea; as it was, our tent on the back of the raft was carried away.
The raft itself, however, being so nearly level with the water, had little peril to encounter from the actual wind; but from the mighty waves now raised by the hurricane we had everything to dread. At first the waves had been crushed and flattened as it were by the pressure of the air, but now, as though strengthened by the reaction, they rose with the utmost fury. The raft followed the motions of the increasing swell, and was tossed up and down, to and fro, and from side to side with the most violent oscillations.
"Lash yourselves tight," cried the boatswain, as he threw us some ropes; and in a few moments with Curtis's assis- tance, M. Letourneur, and Andre, Falsten and myself were fastened so firmly to the raft, that nothing but its total dis- ruption could carry us away. Miss Herbey was bound by a rope passed round her waist to one of the uprights that had supported our tent, and by the glare of the lightning I could see that her countenance was as serene and composed as ever.
Then the storm began to rage indeed. Flash followed flash, peal followed peal in quick succession. Our eyes were blinded, our ears deafened, with the roar and glare. The clouds above, the ocean beneath, seemed verily to have taken fire, and several times I saw forked lightnings dart upward from the crest of the waves, and mingle with those that radiated from the fiery vault above. A strong odor of sulphur pervaded the air, but though thunderbolts fell thick around us, not one touched our raft.
By two o'clock the storm had reached its height. The hurricane had increased, and the heavy waves, heated to a strange heat by the general temperature, dashed over us until we were drenched to the skin. Curtis, Dowlas, the boatswain, and the sailors did what they could to strengthen the raft with additional ropes. M. Letourneur placed him- self in front of Andre, to shelter him from the waves. Miss Herbey stood upright and motionless as a statue.
Soon dense masses of lurid clouds came rolling up, and a crackling, like the rattle of musketry, resounded through the air. This was produced by a series of electrical concussions, in which volleys of hailstones were discharged from the cloud-batteries above. In fact, as the storm-sheet came in contact with a current of cold air, hail was formed with great rapidity, and hailstones, large as nuts, came pelt- ing down, making the platform of the raft re-echo with a metallic ring.
For about half an hour the meteoric shower continued to descend, and during that time the wind slightly abated in violence; but after having shifted from quarter to quar- ter, it once more blew with all its former fury. The shrouds were broken, but happily the mast, already bending almost double, was removed by the men from its socket be- fore it should be snapped short off.. One gust caught away the tiller, which went adrift beyond all power of recovery, and the same blast blew down several of the planks that formed the low parapet on the larboard side, so that the waves dashed in without hindrance through the breach.
The carpenter and his mates tried to repair the damage, but, tossed from wave to wave, the raft was inclined to an angle of more than forty-five degrees, making it impossible for them to keep their footing, and rolling one over another, they were thrown down by the violent shocks. Why they were not altogether carried away, why we were not all hurled into the sea, was to me a mystery. Even if the cords that bound us should retain their hold, it seemed perfectly incredible that the raft itself should not be overturned, so that we should be carried down and stifled in the seething waters.
At last, toward three in the morning, when the hurricane seemed to be raging more fiercely than ever, the raft, caught up on the crest of an enormous wave, stood literally per- pendicularly on its edge. For an instant, by the illumina- tion of the lightning, we beheld ourselves raised to an in- comprehensible height above the foaming breakers. Cries of terror escaped our lips. All must be over now! But no; another moment, and the raft had resumed its horizontal position. Safe, indeed, we were, but the tremendous upheaval was not without its melancholy consequences.
The cords that secured the cases of provisions had burst asunder. One case rolled overboard, and the side of one of the water-barrels was staved in, so that the water which it contained was rapidly escaping. Two of the sailors rushed forward to rescue the case of preserved meat; but one of them caught his foot between the planks of the plat- form, and, unable to disengage it, the poor fellow stood uttering cries of distress.I tried to go to his assistance, and had already untied the cord that was around me; but I was too late.
Another heavy sea dashed over us, and by the light of a dazzling flash I saw the unhappy man, although he had managed without assistance to disengage his foot, washed overboard before it was in my power to get near him. His companion had also disappeared.The same ponderous wave laid me prostrate on the plat- form, and as my head came in collision with the corner of a spar, for a time I lost all consciousness.
We Lose Nearly All Our Provisions
DECEMBER 22. -- Daylight came at length, and the sun broke through and dispersed the clouds that the storm had left behind. The struggle of the elements, while it lasted, had been terrific, but the swoon into which I was thrown by my fall prevented me from observing the final incidents of the visitation. All that I know is, that shortly after we had shipped the heavy sea, that I have mentioned, a shower of rain had the effect of calming the severity of the hurri- cane, and tended to diminish the electric tension of the atmosphere.
Thanks to the kind care of M. Letourneur and Miss Her- bey, I recovered consciousness, but I believe that it is to Robert Curtis that I owe my real deliverance, for he it was that prevented me from being carried away by a second heavy wave.
The tempest, fierce as it was, did not last more than a few hours; but even in that short space of time what an irrepar- able loss we have sustained, and what a load of misery seems stored up for us in the future!
Of the two sailors who perished in the storm, one was Austin, a fine active young man of about eight-and-twenty; the other was old O'Ready, the survivor of so many ship- wrecks. Our party is thus reduced to sixteen souls, leav- ing a total barely exceeding half the number of those who embarked on board the Chancellor at Charleston.
Curtis's first care had been to take a strict account of the remnant of our provisions. Of all the torrents of rain that fell in the night we were unhappily unable to catch a single drop; but water will not fail us yet, for about four- teen gallons still remain in the bottom of the broken barrel, while the second barrel has not been touched. But of food we have next to nothing. The cases containing the dried meat, and the fish that we had preserved, have both been washed away, and all that now remains to us is about sixty pounds of biscuit. Sixty pounds of biscuit between sixteen persons! Eight days, with half a pound a day apiece, will consume it all.
The day has passed away in silence. A general depres- sion has fallen upon all; the specter of famine has appeared among us, and each has remained wrapped in his own gloomy meditations, though each has doubtless but one idea dominant in his mind.Once, as I passed near the group of sailors lying on the fore part of the raft, I heard Flaypole say with a sneer: "Those who are going to die had better make haste about it."
"Yes," said Owen, "and leave their share of food to others." At the regular hour each person received his half-pound of biscuit. Some, I noticed, swallowed it ravenously; others reserved it for another time. Falsten divided his ration into several portions, corresponding, I believe, to the number of meals to which he was ordinarily accustomed. What prudence he shows! If any one survives this misery, I think it will be he.
Lieutenant Walter's Condition
DECEMBER 23 to 30. -- After the storm the wind settled back into its old quarter, blowing pretty briskly from the northeast. As the breeze was all in our favor it was important to make the most of it, and after Dowlas had care- fully readjusted the mast, the sail was once more hoisted, and we were carried along at the rate of two or two and a half knots an hour. A new rudder, formed of a spar and a good-sized plank, has been fitted in the place of the one we lost, but with the wind in its present quarter it is in little requisition. The platform of the raft has been re- paired, the disjointed planks have been closed by means of ropes and wedges, and that portion of the parapet that was washed away has been replaced, so that we are no longer wetted by the waves. In fact, nothing has been left undone to insure the solidity of our raft, and to render it capable of resisting the wear and tear of the wind and waves. But the dangers of wind and waves are not those which we have most to dread.
Together with the unclouded sky came a return of the tropical heat, which during the preceding days had caused us such serious inconvenience; fortunately on the 23d the excessive warmth was somewhat tempered by the breeze, and as the tent was once again put up, we were able to find shelter under it by turns.
But the want of food was beginning to tell upon us sadly, and our sunken cheeks and wasted forms were visible tokens of what we were enduring. With most of us hunger seemed to attack the entire nervous system, and the con- striction of the stomach produced an acute sensation of pain. A narcotic, such as opium or tobacco, might have availed to soothe, if not to cure, the gnawing agony; but of sedatives we had none, so the pain must be endured.
One alone there was among us who did not feel the pangs of hunger. Lieutenant Walter seemed as it were to feed upon the fever that raged within him; but then he was the victim of the most torturing thirst. Miss Herbey, besides reserving for him a portion of her own insufficient allowance, obtained from the captain a small extra supply of water with which every quarter of an hour she moistened the parched lips of the young man, who, almost too weak to speak, could only express his thanks by a grateful smile. Poor fellow! all our care cannot avail to save him now; he is doomed, most surely doomed to die.
On the 23d he seemed to be conscious of his condition, for he made a sign to me to sit down by his side, and then summoning up all his strength to speak, he asked me in a few broken words how long I thought he had to live?Slight as my hesitation was, Walter noticed it immed- iately. "The truth," he said; "tell me the plain truth." "My dear fellow, I am not a doctor, you know," I be- gan," and I can scarcely judge --" "Never mind," he interrupted, "tell me just what you think."
I looked at him attentively for some moments, then laid my ear against his chest. In the last few days his malady had made fearfully rapid strides, and it was only too evi- dent that one lung had already ceased to act, while the other was scarcely capable of performing the work of respiration. The young man was now suffering from the fever which is the sure symptom of the approaching end in all tuberculous complaints.The lieutenant kept his eye fixed upon me with a look of eager inquiry. I knew not what to say, and sought to evade his question. "My dear boy," I said, "in our present circumstances not one of us can tell how long he has to live. Not one of us knows what may happen in the course of the next eight days." "The next eight days," he murmured, as he looked eagerly into my face. And then, turning away his head, he seemed to fall into a sort of doze.
The 24th, 25th, and 26th passed without any alteration in our circumstances, and strange, nay, incredible as it may sound, we began to get accustomed to our condition of star- vation. Often, when reading the histories of shipwrecks, I have suspected the accounts to be greatly exaggerated; but now I fully realize their truth, and marvel when I find on how little nutriment it is possible to exist for so long a time. To our daily half-pound of biscuit the captain has thought to add a few drops of brandy, and the stimulant helps con- siderably to sustain our strength. If we had the same pro- visions for two months, or even for one, there might be room for hope; but our supplies diminish rapidly, and the time is fast approaching when of food and drink there will be none.
The sea had furnished us with food once, and, difficult as the task of fishing had now become, at all hazards the attempt must be made again. Accordingly the carpenter and the boatswain set to work and made lines out of some untwisted hemp, to which they fixed some nails that they pulled out of the flooring of the raft, and bent into proper shape. The boatswain regarded his device with evident satisfaction.
"I don't mean to say," said he to me, "that these nails are first-rate fish-hooks; but, one thing I do know, and that is, with proper bait they will act as well as the best. But this biscuit is no good at all. Let me but just get hold of one fish, and I shall know fast enough how to use it to catch some more."
And the true difficulty was how to catch the first fish. It was evident that fish were not abundant in these waters, nevertheless the lines were cast. But the biscuit with which they were baited dissolved at once in the water, and we did not get a single bite. For two days the attempt was made in vain, and as it only involved what seemed a lavish waste of our only means of subsistence, it was given up in de- spair.
To-day, the 30th, as a last resource, the boatswain tried what a piece of colored rag might do by way of attracting some voracious fish, and having obtained from Miss Her- bey a little piece of the red shawl she wears, he fastened it to his hook. But still no success; for when, after several hours, he examined his lines, the crimson shred was still hanging intact as he had fixed it. The man was quite dis- couraged at his failure.
JANUARY 1 to 5. -- More than three months had elapsed since we left Charleston in the Chancellor, and for no less than twenty days had we now been borne along on our raft at the mercy of the wind and waves. Whether we were approaching the American coast, or whether we were drift- ing farther and farther to sea, it was now impossible to de- termine, for, in addition to the other disasters caused by the hurricane, the captain's instruments had been hopelessly smashed, and Curtis had no longer any compass by which to direct his course, nor a sextant by which he might make an observation.
Desperate, however, as our condition might be judged, hope did not entirely abandon our hearts, and day after day, hour after hour were our eyes strained toward the far horizon, and many and many a time did our imagination shape out the distant land. But ever and again the illusion vanished; a cloud, a mist, perhaps even a wave, was all that had deceived us; no land, no sail ever broke the gray line that united sea and sky, and our raft remained the center of the wide and dreary waste.
On the 1st of January, we swallowed our last morsel of biscuit. The first of January! New Year's Day! What a rush of sorrowful recollections overwhelmed our minds! Had we not always associated the opening of another year with new hopes, new plans, and coming joys? And now, where were we? Could we dare to look at one another, and breathe a New Year's greeting?The boatswain approached me with a peculiar look on his countenance. "You are surely not going to wish me a happy New Year?" I said. "No indeed, sir," he replied, "I was only going to wish you well through the first day of it; and that is pretty good assurance on my part, for we have not another crumb to eat."
True as it was, we scarcely realized the fact of there being actually nothing until on the following morning the hour came round for the distribution of the scanty ration, and then, indeed, the truth was forced upon us in a new and startling light. Toward evening I was seized with violent pains in the stomach, accompanied by a constant desire to yawn and gape that was most distressing; but in a couple of hours the extreme agony passed away, and on the 3d I was surprised to find that I did not suffer more. I felt, it is true, that there was some great void within myself, but the sensation was quite as much moral as physical. My head was so heavy that I could not hold it up; it was swim- ming with giddiness, as though I were looking over a precipice.
My symptoms were not shared by all my companions, some of whom endured the most frightful tortures. Dow- las and the boatswain especially, who were naturally large eaters, uttered involuntary cries of agony, and were obliged to gird themselves tightly with ropes to subdue the excru- ciating pain that was gnawing their very vitals.
And this was only the second day of our misery! What would we not have given for half, nay, for a quarter of the meager ration which a few days back we deemed so inade- quate to supply our wants, and which now, eked out crumb by crumb, might, perhaps, serve for several days? In the streets of a besieged city, dire as the distress may be, some gutter, some rubbish-heap, some corner may yet be found that will furnish a dry bone or a scrap of refuse that may for a moment allay the pangs of hunger; but these bare planks, so many times washed clean by the relentless waves, offer nothing to our eager search, and after every fragment of food that the wind has carried into the interstices has been scraped out and devoured, our resources are literally at an end.
The nights seem even longer than the days. Sleep, when it comes, brings no relief; it is rather a feverish stupor, broken and disturbed by frightful nightmares. Last night, however, overcome by fatigue, I managed to rest for sev- eral hours.
At six o'clock this morning I was roused by the sound of angry voices, and, starting up, I saw Owen and Jynxstrop, with Flaypole, Wilson, Burke, and Sandon, standing in a threatening attitude. They had taken posses- sion of the carpenter's tools, and now, armed with hatchets, chisels, and hammers, they were preparing to attack the captain, the boatswain, and Dowlas. I attached myself in a moment to Curtis's party. Falsten followed my ex- ample, and although our knives were the only weapons at our disposal, we were ready to defend ourselves to the very last extremity.
Owen and his men advanced toward us. The miserable wretches were all drunk, for during the night they had knocked a hole in the brandy-barrel, and had recklessly swal- lowed its contents. What they wanted they scarcely seemed to know, but Owen and Jynxstrop, not quite so much intox- icated as the rest, seemed to be urging them on to massacre the captain and the officers.
"Down with the captain! Overboard with Curtis! Owen shall take the command!" they shouted from time to time in their drunken fury; and, armed as they were, they appeared completely masters of the situation."Now, then, down with your arms!" said Curtis sternly, as he advanced to meet them. "Overboard with the captain!" howled Owen, as by word and gesture he urged on his accomplices. Curtis pushed aside the excited rascals, and, walking straight up to Owen, asked him what he wanted. "What do we want? Why, we want no more captains; we are all equals now." Poor stupid fool! as though misery and privation had not already reduced us all to the same level.
"Owen," said the captain once again, "down with your arms!" "Come on, all of you," shouted Owen to his companions, without giving the slightest heed to Curtis's words.
A regular struggle ensued. Owen and Wilson attacked Curtis, who defended himself with a piece of spar; Burke and Flaypole rushed upon Falsten and the boatswain, while I was left to confront the negro Jynxstrop, who attempted to strike me with the hammer which he brandished in his hand. I endeavored to paralyze his movements by pinioning his arms, but the rascal was my superior in muscular strength. After wrestling for a few minutes, I felt that he was getting the mastery over me, when all of a sudden he rolled over on to the platform, dragging me with him. Andre Letour- neur had caught hold of one of his legs, and thus saved my life. Jynxstrop dropped his weapon in his fall; I seized it instantly, and was about to cleave the fellow's skull, when I was myself arrested by Andre's hand upon my arm.
By this time the mutineers had been driven back to the forepart of the raft, and Curtis, who had managed to parry the blows which had been aimed at him, had caught hold of a hatchet, with which he was preparing to strike Owen. But Owen made a sidelong movement to avoid the blow, and the weapon caught Wilson full in the chest. The unfor- tunate man rolled over the side of the raft and instantly dis- appeared."Save him! save him!" shouted the boatswain. "It's too late; he's dead! " said Dowlas. "Ah, well! he'll do for --" began the boatswain; but he did not finish his sentence.
Wilson's death, however, put an end to the fray. Flay- pole and Burke were lying prostrate in a drunken stupor, and Jynxstrop was soon overpowered, and lashed tightly to the foot of the mast. The carpenter and boatswain seized hold of Owen."Now then," said Curtis, as he raised his blood-stained hatchet, "make your peace with God, for you have not a moment to live." "Oh, you want to eat me, do you?" sneered Owen, with the most hardened effrontery. But the audacious reply saved his life; Curtis turned as pale as death, the hatchet dropped from his hand, and he went and seated himself moodily on the farthest corner of the raft.
A Father's Love
JANUARY 5 and 6. -- The whole scene made a deep impres- sion on our minds, and Owen's speech coming as a sort of climax, brought before us our misery with a force that was well-nigh overwhelming.As soon as I recovered my composure, I did not forget to thank Andre Letourneur for the act of intervention that had saved my life. "Do you thank me for that, Mr. Kazallon?" he said; "it has only served to prolong your misery." "Never mind, M. Letourneur," said Miss Herbey; "you did your duty."
Enfeebled and emaciated as the young girl is, her sense of duty never deserts her; and although her torn and be- draggled garments float dejectedly about her body, she never utters a word of complaint, and never loses courage."Mr. Kazallon," she said to me, "do you think we are fated to die of hunger?" "Yes, Miss Herbey, I do," I replied, in a hard, cold tone. "How long do you suppose we have to live?" she asked again. "I cannot say; perhaps we shall linger on longer than we imagine." "The strongest constitutions suffer the most, do they not?" she said. "Yes; but they have one consolation -- they die the soon- est," I replied, coldly.
Had every spark of humanity died out of my breast, that I thus brought the girl face to face with the terrible truth, without a word of hope or comfort? The eyes of Andre and his father, dilated with hunger, were fixed upon me, and I saw reproach and astonishment written in their faces.Afterward, when we were quite alone, Miss Herbey asked me if I would grant her a favor. "Certainly, Miss Herbey; anything you like to ask," I replied; and this time my manner was kinder and more genial. "Mr. Kazallon," she said, "I am weaker than you, and shall probably die first. Promise me that, if I do, you will throw me into the sea!"
"Oh, Miss Herbey," I began, "it was very wrong of me to speak to you as I did!" "No, no," she replied, half smiling; "you were quite right. But it is a weakness of mine; I don't mind what they do with me as long as I am alive, but when I am dead --" She stopped and shuddered. "Oh, promise me that you will throw me into the sea!"I gave her the melancholy promise, which she acknowl- edged by pressing my hand feebly with her emaciated fingers.
Another night passed away. At times my sufferings were so intense that cries of agony involuntarily escaped my lips; then I became calmer, and sank into a kind of lethargy. When I awoke, I was surprised to find my companions still alive.
The one of our party who seems to bear his privations the best is Hobart the steward, a man with whom hitherto I have had very little to do. He is small, with a fawning expression remarkable for its indecision, and has a smile which is incessantly playing round his lips; he goes about with his eyes half closed, as though he wished to conceal his thoughts, and there is something altogether false and hypocritical about his whole demeanor. I cannot say that he bears his privations without a murmur, for he sighs and moans incessantly; but, with it all, I cannot but think that there is a want of genuineness in his manner, and that the privation has not really told upon him as much as it has upon the rest of us. I have my suspicions about the man, and intend to watch him carefully.
To-day, the 6th, M. Letourneur drew me aside to the stern of the raft, saying he had a secret to communicate, but that he wished neither to be seen nor heard speaking to me. I withdrew with him to the larboard corner of the raft, and, as it was growing dusk, nobody observed what we were doing."Mr. Kazallon," M. Letourneur began, in a low voice, "Andre is dying of hunger; he is growing weaker and weaker, and oh! I cannot, will not, see him die!" He spoke passionately, almost fiercely, and I fully under- stood his feelings. Taking his hand, I tried to reassure him. "We will not despair yet," I said; "perhaps some pass- ing ship --"
"Ship!" he cried, impatiently, "don't try to console me with empty commonplaces; you know as well as I do that there is no chance of falling in with a passing ship." Then, breaking off suddenly, he asked: "How long is it since my son and all of you have had anything to eat?"Astonished at his question, I replied that it was now four days since the biscuit had failed. "Four days," he repeated; "well, then, it is eight since I have tasted anything. I have been saving my share for my son." Tears rushed to my eyes; for a few moments I was unable to speak, and could only once more grasp his hand in silence. "What do you want me to do?" I asked, at length.
"Hush! not so loud; someone will hear us," he said, low- ering his voice; "I want you to offer it to Andre as though it came from yourself. He would not accept it from me; he would think I had been depriving myself for him. Let me implore you to do me this service; and for your trouble," -- and here he gently stroked my hand -- "for your trouble you shall have a morsel for yourself."I trembled like a child as I listened to the poor father's words; and my heart was ready to burst when I felt a tiny piece of biscuit slipped into my hand.
"Give it him," M. Letourneur went on under his breath, "give it him; but do not let anyone see you; the monsters would murder you if they knew it! This is only for to- day; I will give you some more to-morrow."
The poor fellow did not trust me -- and well he might not -- for I had the greatest difficulty to withstand the tempta- tion to carry the biscuit to my mouth. But I resisted the impulse, and those alone who have suffered like me can know what the effort was.Night came on with the rapidity peculiar to these low lati- tudes, and I glided gently up to Andre, and slipped the piece of biscuit into his hand as "a present from myself." The young man clutched at it eagerly. "But my father?" he said, inquiringly.
I assured him that his father and I had each had our share, and that he must eat this now, and perhaps I should be able to bring him some more another time. Andre asked no more questions, and eagerly devoured the morsel of food.So this evening at least, notwithstanding M. Letourneur's offer, I have tasted nothing.
Death Of Lieutenant Walter
JANUARY 7. -- During the last few days, since the wind has freshened, the salt water constantly dashing over the raft has terribly punished the feet and legs of some of the sailors. Owen, whom the boatswain ever since the revolt has kept bound to the mast, is in a deplorable state, and, at our request, has been released from his restraint. Sandon and Burke are also suffering from the severe smarting caused in this way, and it is only owing to our more sheltered position on the aft-part of the raft, that we have not all shared the same inconvenience.
To-day the boatswain, maddened by starvation, laid hands upon everything that met his voracious eyes, and I could hear the grating of his teeth as he gnawed at fragments of sails and bits of wood, instinctively endeavoring to fill his stomach by putting the mucus into circulation. At length, by dint of an eager search, he came upon a piece of leather hanging to one of the spars that supported the platform. He snatched it off and devoured it greedily; and, as it was animal matter, it really seemed as though the absorption of the substance afforded him some temporary relief. In- stantly we all followed his example; a leather hat, the rims of caps, in short, anything that contained any animal matter at all, were gnawed and sucked with the utmost avidity. Never shall I forget the scene. We were no longer human -- the impulses and instincts of brute beasts seemed to actuate our every movement.
For a moment the pangs of hunger were somewhat allayed; but some of us revolted against the loathsome food, and were seized either with violent nausea or absolute sick- ness. I must be pardoned for giving these distressing de- tails; but how otherwise can I depict the misery, moral and physical, which we are enduring? And with it all, I dare not venture to hope that we have reached the climax of our sufferings.
The conduct of Hobart, during the scene that I have just described, has only served to confirm my previous suspicions of him. He took no part in the almost fiendish energy with which we gnawed at our scraps of leather; and, although by his conduct of perpetual groanings, he might be considered to be dying of inanition, yet to me he has the appearance of being singularly exempt from the tortures which we are all enduring. But whether the hypocrite is being sustained by some secret store of food, I have been unable to discover.
Whenever the breeze drops the heat is overpowering; but although our allowance of water is very meager, at present the pangs of hunger far exceed the pain of thirst. It has often been remarked that extreme thirst is far less endurable than extreme hunger. Is it possible that still greater agonies are in store for us? I cannot, dare not, believe it. For- tunately, the broken barrel still contains a few pints of water, and the other one has not yet been opened. But I am glad to say that notwithstanding our diminished numbers, and in spite of some opposition, the captain has thought right to reduce the daily allowance to half a pint for each person. As for the brandy, of which there is only a quart now left, it has been stowed away safely in the stern of the raft.
This evening has ended the sufferings of another of our companions, making our number now only fourteen. My attentions and Miss Herbey's nursing could do nothing for Lieutenant Walter, and about half-past seven he expired in my arms.
Before he died, in a few broken words, he thanked Miss Herbey and myself for the kindness we had shown him. A crumpled letter fell from his hand, and in a voice that was scarcely audible from weakness, he said :
"It is my mother's letter; the last I had from her -- she was expecting me home; but she will never see me more. Oh, put it to my lips -- let me kiss it before I die. Mother! mother! Oh, my God!"I placed the letter in his cold hand, and raised it to his lips; his eye lighted for a moment; we heard the faint sound of a kiss; and all was over!
Human Flesh For BaitJANUARY 8. -- All night I remained by the side of the poor fellow's corpse, and several times Miss Herbey joined me in my mournful watch.
Before daylight dawned, the body was quite cold, and as I knew there must be no delay in throwing it overboard, I asked Curtis to assist me in the sad office. The body was frightfully emaciated, and I had every hope that it would not float.
As soon as it was quite light, taking every precaution that no one should see what we were about, Curtis and I pro- ceeded to our melancholy task. We took a few articles from the lieutenant's pockets, which we purposed, if either of us should survive, to remit to his mother. But as we wrapped him in his tattered garments that would have to suffice for his winding sheet, I started back with a thrill of horror. The right foot had gone, leaving the leg a bleeding stump.
No doubt that, overcome by fatigue, I must have fallen asleep for an interval during the night, and some one had taken advantage of my slumber to mutilate the corpse. But who could have been guilty of so foul a deed? Curtis looked around with anger flashing in his eye; but all seemed as usual, and the silence was only broken by a few groans of agony.
But there was no time to be lost; perhaps we were already observed, and more horrible scenes might be likely to occur. Curtis said a few short prayers, and we cast the body into the sea. It sank immediately."They are feeding the sharks well, and no mistake," said a voice behind me. I turned round quickly, and found that it was Jynxstrop who had spoken. As the boatswain now approached, I asked him whether he thought it possible that any of the wretched men could have taken the dead man's foot. "Oh, yes, I dare say," he replied in a significant tone, "and perhaps they thought they were right." "Right! what do you mean?" I exclaimed. "Well, sir," he said coldly, "isn't it better to eat a dead man than a living one?" I was at a loss to comprehend him, and, turning away, laid myself down at the end of the raft.
Toward eleven o'clock a most suspicious incident occurred. The boatswain, who had cast his lines early in the morning, caught three large cod, each more than thirty inches long, of the species which, when dried, is known by the name of stock-fish. Scarcely had he hauled them on board when the sailors made a dash at them, and it was with the utmost dif- ficulty that Curtis, Falsten and myself could restore order, so that we might divide the fish into equal portions. Three cod were not much among fourteen starving persons, but, small as the quantity was, it was allotted in strictly equal shares. Most of us devoured the food raw, almost I might say, alive; only Curtis, Andre, and Miss Herbey having the patience to wait until their allowance had been boiled at a fire which they made with a few scraps of wood. For my- self, I confess that I swallowed my portion of fish as it was
- raw and bleeding. M. Letourneur followed my example; the poor man devoured his food like a famished wolf, and it is only a wonder to me how, after his lengthened fast, he came to be alive at all.
"Not now," he said evasively; "the night is the best time for catching large fish. Besides, I must manage to get some bait, for we have been improvident enough not to save a single scrap.""But you have succeeded once without bait; why may you not succeed again?" "Oh, I had some very good bait last night," he said. I stared at him in amazement. He steadily returned my gaze, but said nothing. "Have you none left?" at last I asked. "Yes!" he almost whispered, and left me without another word.
Our meal, meager as it had been, served to rally our shat- tered energies; our hopes were slightly raised; there was no reason why the boatswain should not have the same good luck again.
One evidence of the degree to which our spirits were re- vived was that our minds were no longer fixed upon the miserable present and hopeless future, but we began to recall and discuss the past; and M. Letourneur, Andre, Mr. Fal- sten and I, held a long conversation with the captain about the various incidents of our eventful voyage, speaking of our lost companions, of the fire, or the stranding of the ship, of our sojourn on Ham Rock, of the springing of the leak, of our terrible voyage in the top-masts, of the construction of the raft, and of the storm. All these things seemed to have happened so long ago, and yet we were living still. Living, did I say? Ay, if such an existence as ours could be called a life, fourteen of us were living still. Who would be the next to go? We should then be thirteen.
"An unlucky number!" said Andre, with a mournful smile.
During the night the boatswain cast his lines from the stern of the raft, and, unwilling to trust them to anyone else, remained watching them himself. In the morning I went to ascertain what success had attended his patience. It was scarcely light, and with eager eyes he was peering down into the water. He had neither seen nor heard me coming."Well, boatswain!" I said, touching him on the shoulder. He turned round quickly. "Those villainous sharks have eaten every morsel of my bait," he said, in a desponding voice. "And you have no more left?" I asked. "No more," he said. Then grasping my arm, he added, "and that only shows me that it is no good doing things by halves." The truth flashed upon me at once, and I laid my hand upon his mouth. Poor Walter!
Oxide Of Copper Poisoning
JANUARY 9 and10. -- On the 9th the wind dropped, and there was a dead calm; not a ripple disturbed the surface of the long undulations as they rose and fell beneath us; and if it were not for the slight current which is carrying us we know not whither, the raft would be absolutely stationary.
The heat was intolerable; our thirst more intolerable still; and now it was that for the first time I fully realized how the insufficiency of drink could cause torture more unendurable than the pangs of hunger. Mouth, throat, pharynx, all alike were parched and dry, every gland becoming hard as horn under the action of the hot air we breathed. At my urgent solicitation, the captain was for once induced to double our allowance of water; and this relaxation of the ordinary rule enabled us to attempt to slake our thirst four times in the day, instead of only twice. I use the word "attempt" advisedly; for the water at the bottom of the barrel though kept covered by a sail, became so warm that it was perfectly flat and unrefreshing.
It was a most trying day, and the sailors relapsed into a condition of deep despondency. The moon was nearly full, but when she rose the breeze did not return. Continuance of high temperature in daytime is a sure proof that we have been carried far to the south, and here, on this illimitable ocean, we have long ceased even to look for land; it might almost seem as though this globe of ours had veritably be- come a liquid sphere!
To-day we are still becalmed, and the temperature is as high as ever. The air is heated like a furnace, and the sun scorches like fire. The torments of famine are all forgotten; our thoughts are concentrated with fevered expectation upon the longed-for moment when Curtis shall dole out the scanty measure of lukewarm water that makes up our ration. Oh for one good draught, even if it should exhaust the whole supply! At least, it seems as if we then could die in peace!
About noon we were startled by sharp cries of agony, and looking round, I saw Owen writhing in the most horrible convulsions. I went toward him, for, detestable as his con- duct had been, common humanity prompted me to see whether I could afford him any relief. But before I reached him, a shout from Flaypole arrested my attention. The man was up in the mast, and with great excitement pointing to the east."A ship! A ship!" he cried.
In an instant all were on their feet. Even Owen stopped his cries and stood erect. It was quite true that in the direc- tion indicated by Flaypole there was a white speck visible upon the horizon. But did it move? Would the sailors with their keen vision pronounce it to be a sail? A silence the most profound fell upon us all. I glanced at Curtis as he stood with folded arms intently gazing at the distant point. His brow was furrowed, and he contracted every fea- ture, as with half-closed eyes he concentrated his power of vision upon that one faint spot in the far off horizon.
But at length he dropped his arms and shook his head. I looked again, but the spot was no longer there. If it were a ship, that ship had disappeared; but probably it had been a mere reflection, or, more likely still, only the crest of some curling wave.
Owen now began to shriek more wildly than ever. He presented truly a most melancholy sight; he writhed with the most hideous contortions, and had all the appearance of suffering from tetanus. His throat was contracted by re- peated spasms, his tongue was parched, his body swollen, and his pulse, though feeble, was rapid and irregular. The poor wretch's symptoms were precisely such as to lead us to sus- pect that he had taken some corrosive poison. Of course it was quite out of our power to administer any antidote; all that we could devise was to make him swallow something that might act as an emetic. I asked Curtis for a little of the lukewarm water. As the contents of the broken barrel were now exhausted, the captain, in order to comply with my request, was about to tap the other barrel, when Owen started suddenly to his knees, and with a wild, unearthly shriek, exclaimed:"No! no! no! of that water I will not touch a drop."
I supposed he did not understand what we were going to do, and endeavored to explain; but all in vain; he persisted in refusing to taste the water in the second barrel. I then tried to induce vomiting by tickling his uvula, and he brought off some bluish secretion from his stomach, the character of which confirmed our previous suspicions -- that he had been poisoned by oxide of copper. We now felt convinced that any effort on our part to save him would be of no avail. The vomiting, however, had for the time relieved him, and he was able to speak.Curtis and I both implored him to let us know what he had taken to bring about consequences so serious. His reply fell upon us as a startling blow. The ill-fated wretch had stolen several pints of water from the barrel that had been untouched, and that water had poisoned him!
JANUARY 11 to 14. -- Owen's convulsions returned with in- creased violence, and in the course of the night he expired in terrible agony. His body was thrown overboard almost directly, it had decomposed so rapidly that the flesh had not even consistency enough for any fragments of it to be re- served for the boatswain to use to bait his lines. A plague the man had been to us in his life; in his death he was now of no service!
And now, perhaps still more than ever, did the horror of our situation stare us in the face. There was no doubt that the poisoned barrel had at some time or other contained copperas; but what strange fatality had converted it into a water cask, or what fatality, stranger still, had caused it to be brought on board the raft, was a problem that none could solve. Little, however, did it matter now; the fact was evi- dent -- the barrel was poisoned, and of water we had not a drop.
One and all, we fell into the gloomiest silence. We were too irritable to bear the sound of each other's voices; and it did not require a word -- a mere look or gesture was enough -- to provoke us to anger that was little short of madness. How it was that we did not all become raving maniacs, I can- not tell.
Throughout the 12th no drain of moisture crossed our lips, and not a cloud arose to warrant the expectation of a passing shower; in the shade, if shade it might be called, the thermometer would have registered at least 100 deg., and per- haps considerably more.
No change next day. The salt water began to chafe my legs, but although the smarting was at times severe, it was an inconvenience to which I gave little heed; others who had suffered from the same trouble had become no worse. Oh! if this water that surrounds us could be reduced to vapor or to ice! its particles of salt extracted, it would be available for drink. But no! we have no appliances, and we must suffer on.
At the risk of being devoured by the sharks, the boat- swain and two sailors took a morning bath, and as their plunge seemed to freshen them, I and three of my companions resolved to follow their example. We had never learned to swim, and had to be fastened to the end of a rope and lowered into the water, while Curtis, during the half hour of our bath, kept a sharp lookout to give warning of any danger from approaching sharks. No recommenda- tion, however, on our part, nor any representation of the benefit we felt we had derived, could induce Miss Herbey to allay her sufferings in the same way.At about eleven o'clock, the captain came up to me, and whispered in my ear:
"Don't say a word, Mr. Kazallon; I do not want to raise false hopes, but I think I see a ship."
It was as well that the captain had warned me; otherwise, I should have raised an involuntary shout of joy; as it was I had the greatest difficulty in restraining my expressions of delight.
Affecting an indifference which I was far from feeling, I cast an anxious glance to that quarter of the horizon of which he spoke, and there, although mine was not a nautical eye, I could plainly distinguish the outline of a ship under sail.Almost at the same moment the boatswain who happened to be looking in the same direction, raised the cry, "Ship ahoy!"
Whether it was that no one believed it, or whether all energies were exhausted, certain it is that the announcement produced none of the effects that might have been expected. Not a soul exhibited the slightest emotion, and it was only when the boatswain had several times sung out his tidings that all eyes turned to the horizon. There, most undeniably, was the ship, but the question rose at once to the minds of all, and to the lips of many, "Would she see us?"
The sailors immediately began discussing the build of the vessel, and made all sorts of conjectures as to the direction she was taking. Curtis was far more deliberate in his judgment. After examining her attentively for some time, he said, "She is a brig running close upon the wind, on the star- board tack. If she keeps her course for a couple of hours, she will come right athwart our tracks."
A couple of hours! The words sounded to our ears like a couple of centuries. The ship might change her course at any moment; closely trimmed as she was, it was very probable that she was only tacking about to catch the wind, in which case, as soon as she felt a breeze, she would r‚sum‚ her larboard tack and make away again. On the other hand, if she was really sailing with the wind, she would come nearer to us, and there would be good ground for hope.
Meantime, no exertion must be spared, and no means left untried, to make our position known. The brig was about twelve miles to the east of us, so that it was out of the ques- tion to think of any cries of ours being overheard; but Curtis gave directions that every possible signal should be made. We had no firearms by which we could attract attention, and nothing else occurred to us beyond hoisting a flag of distress. Miss Herbey's red shawl, as being of a color most distin- guishable against the background of sea and sky, was run up to the mast-head, and was caught by the light breeze that just then was ruffling the surface of the water. As a drown- ing man clutches at a straw, so our hearts bounded with hope every time that our poor flag fluttered in the wind.
For an hour our feelings alternated between hope and despair. The ship was evidently making her way in the di- rection of the raft, but every now and then she seemed to stop, and then our hearts would almost stand still with agony lest she was going to put about. She carried all her canvas, even to her royals and stay-sails, but her hull was only partially visible above the horizon.
How slowly she advanced! The breeze was very, very feeble, and perhaps soon it would drop altogether! We felt that we would give years of our life to know the result of the coming hour.
At half past twelve the captain and the boatswain con- sidered that the brig was about nine miles away; she had, therefore, gained only three miles in an hour and a half, and it was doubtful whether the light breeze that had been passing over our heads had reached her at all. I fancied, too, that her sails were no longer filled, but were hanging loose against her masts. Turning to the direction of the wind, I tried to make out some chance of a rising breeze; but no, the waves were calm and torpid, and the little puff of air that had aroused our hopes had died away across the sea.
I stood aft with M. Letourneur, Andre and Miss Herbey, and our glances perpetually wandered from the distant ship to our captain's face. Curtis stood leaning against the mast, with the boatswain by his side; their eyes seemed never for a moment to cease to watch the brig, but their countenances clearly expressed the varying emotions that passed through their minds. Not a word was uttered, nor was the silence broken, until the carpenter exclaimed, in accents of despair:"She's putting about!"
All started up -- some to their knees, others to their feet. The boatswain dropped a frightful oath. The ship was still nine miles away, and at such a distance it was impossible for our signal to be seen; our tiny raft, a mere speck upon the waters, would be lost in the intense irradiation of the sun- beams. If only we could be seen, no doubt all would be well; no captain would have the barbarous inhumanity to leave us to our fate; but there had been no chance; only too well we knew that we had not been within range of sight."My friends," said Curtis, "we must make a fire; it is our last and only chance."
Some planks were quickly loosened and thrown into a heap upon the fore part of the raft. They were damp and troublesome to light; but the very dampness made the smoke more dense, and ere long a tall column of dusky fumes was rising straight upward in the air. If darkness should come on before the brig was completely out of view, the flames, we hoped might still be visible. But the hours passed on; the fire died out; and yet no signs of help.
The temper of resignation now deserted me entirely; faith, hope, confidence -- all vanished from my mind, and, like the boatswain, I swore long and loudly. A gentle hand was laid upon my arm, and turning round I saw Miss Herbey with her finger pointing to the sky. I could stand it no longer, but gliding underneath the tent I hid my face in my hands and wept aloud.
The Depths Of Despair
JANUARY 15. -- After this further shattering of our ex- cited hopes, death alone now stares us in the face; slow and lingering as that death may be, sooner or later it must in- evitably come.
To-day some clouds that rose in the west have brought us a few puffs of wind; and in spite of our prostration, we ap- preciate the moderation, slight as it is, in the temperature. To my parched throat the air seemed a little less trying; but it is now seven days since the boatswain took his haul of fish, and during that period we had eaten nothing; even Andre Letourneur finished yesterday, the last morsel of the biscuit which his sorrowful and selfdenying father had in- trusted to my charge.
Jynxstrop, the negro, has broken loose from his confine- ment, but Curtis has taken no measures for putting him again under restraint. It is not to be apprehended that the miserable fellow and his accomplices, weakened as they are by their protracted fast, will attempt to do us any mischief now.
Some huge sharks made their appearance to-day, cleaving the water rapidly with their great black fins. The monsters came up close to the edge of the raft, and Flaypole, who was leaning over, narrowly escaped having his arm snapped off by one of them. I could not help regarding them as living sepulchers, which ere long might swallow up our miserable carcasses; yet, withal, I profess that my feelings were those of fascination rather than horror.
The boatswain, who stood with clenched teeth and dilated eye, regarded these sharks from quite another point of view. He thought about devouring the sharks, not about the sharks devouring him; and if he could succeed in catching one, I doubt if one of us would reject the tough and untempting flesh. He determined to make the attempt, and as he had no whirl which he could fasten to his rope he set to work to find something that might serve as a substitute. Curtis and Dowlas were consulted, and after a short conversation, during which they kept throwing bits of rope and spars into the water in order to entice the sharks to remain by the raft, Dowlas went and fetched his carpenter's tool, which is at once a hatchet and a hammer. Of this he proposed to make the whirl of which they were in need, under the hope that either the sharp edge of the adze or the pointed extremity opposite would stick firmly into the jaws of any shark that might swallow it. The wooden handle of the hammer was secured to the rope, which, in its turn was tightly fastened to the raft.
With eager, almost breathless, excitement we stood watch- ing the preparations, at the same time using every means in our power to attract the attention of the sharks. As soon as the whirl was ready the boatswain began to think about bait, and, talking rapidly to himself, ransacked every corner of the raft, as though he expected to find some dead body coming opportunely to sight. But his search ended in noth- ing; and the only plan that suggested itself was again to have recourse to Miss Herbey's red shawl, of which a frag- ment was wrapped around the head of the hammer. After testing the strength of his line, and reassuring himself that it was fastened firmly both to the hammer and to the raft, the boatswain lowered it into the water.
The sea was quite transparent, and any object was clearly visible to a depth of two hundred feet below the surface. Leaning over the low parapet of the raft we looked on in breathless silence, as the scarlet rag, distinct as it was against the blue mass of water, made its slow descent. But one by one the sharks seemed to disappear. They could not, how- ever, have gone far away, and it was not likely that any- thing in the shape of bait dropped near them would long escape their keen voracity.
Suddenly, without speaking, the boatswain raised his hand and pointed to a dark mass skimming along the surface of the water, and making straight in our direction. It was a shark, certainly not less than twelve feet long. As soon as the creature was about four fathoms from the raft, the boatswain gently drew in his line until the whirl was in such a position that the shark must cross right over it; at the same time he shook the line a little, that he might give the whirl the appearance, if he could, of being something alive and moving. As the creature came near, my heart beat violently; I could see its eyes flashing above the waves; and its gaping jaws, as it turned half over on its back, exhibited long rows of pointed teeth.
I know not who it was, but some one at that moment uttered an involuntary cry of horror. The shark came to a standstill, turned about, and escaped quite out of sight. The boatswain was pale with anger."The first man who speaks," he said, "I will kill him on the spot."
Again he applied himself to his task. The whirl was again lowered, this time to the depth of twenty fathoms, but for half an hour or more not a shark could be distin- guished; but as the waters far below seemed somehow to be troubled I could not help believing that some of the brutes at least were still there.
All at once, with a violent jerk, the cord was wrested from the boatswain's hands; firmly attached, however, as it was to the raft, it was not lost. The bait had been seized by a shark, and the iron had made good its hold upon the crea- ture's flesh."Now, then, my lads," cried the boatswain, "haul away!"
Passengers and sailors, one and all, put forth what strength they had to drag the rope, but so violent were the creature's struggles that it required all our efforts (and it is needless to say they were willing enough) to bring it to the surface. At length, after exertions that almost exhausted us, the water became agitated by the violent flappings of the tail and fins; and looking down I saw the huge carcass of the shark writhing convulsively amid waves that were stained with blood.
"Steady! steady!" said the boatswain, as the head ap- peared above The whirl had passed right through the jaw into the mid- dle of the throat, so that no struggle on the part of the ani- mal could possibly release it. Dowlas seized the hatchet, ready to dispatch the brute the moment it should be landed on the raft. A short sharp snap was heard. The shark had closed its jaws, and bitten through the wooden handle of the hammer. Another moment and it had turned round and was completely gone.
A howl of despair burst from all our lips. All the labor and the patience, all had been in vain. Dowlas made a few more unsuccessful attempts, but as the whirl was lost, and they had no means of replacing it, there was no further room for hope. They did, indeed, lower some cords twisted into running knots, but (as might have been ex- pected) these only slipped over, without holding, the slimy bodies of the sharks. As a last resource the boatswain allowed his naked leg to hang over the side of the raft; the monsters, however, were proof even against this at- traction.Reduced once again to a gloomy despondency, all turned to their places, to await the end that can not now be long deferred. Just as I moved away I heard the boatswain say to Curtis: "Captain, when shall we draw lots?" The captain made no reply.
Our Thirst Relieved
JANUARY 16. -- If the crew of any passing vessel had caught sight of us as we lay still and inanimate upon our sail-cloth, they would scarcely, at first sight, have hesitated to pronounce us dead.
My sufferings were terrible; tongue, lips, and throat were so parched and swollen that if food had been at hand I question whether I could have swallowed it. So ex- asperated were the feelings of us all, however, that we glanced at each other with looks as savage as though we were about to slaughter and without delay eat up one an- other.
The heat was aggravated by the atmosphere being some- what stormy. Heavy vapors gathered on the horizon, and there was a look as if it were raining all around. Longing eyes and gasping mouths turned involuntarily toward the clouds, and M. Letourneur, on bended knee, was raising his hands, as it might be in supplication to the relentless skies.
It was eleven o'clock in the morning. I listened for dis- tant rumblings which might announce an approaching storm, but although the vapors had obstructed the sun's rays, they no longer presented the appearance of being charged with electricity. Thus our prognostications ended in disappointment; the clouds, which in the early morning had been marked by the distinctness of their outline, had melted one into another and assumed an uniform dull gray tint; in fact, we were enveloped in an ordinary fog. But was it not still possible that this fog might turn to rain?
Happily this hope was destined to be realized; for in a very short time, Dowlas, with a shout of delight, declared that rain was actually coming; and sure enough, not half a mile from the raft, the dark parallel streaks against the sky testified that there at least rain was falling. I fancied I could see the drops rebounding from the surface of the water. The wind was fresh and bringing the cloud right on toward us, yet we could not suppress our trepidation lest it should exhaust itself before it reached us.
But no; very soon large heavy drops began to fall, and the storm-cloud, passing over our heads, was outpouring its contents upon us. The shower, however, was very transient; already a bright streak of light along the horizon marked the limit of the cloud and warned us that we must be quick to make the most of what it had to give us. Curtis had placed the broken barrel in the position that was most exposed, and every sail was spread out to the fullest extent our dimensions would allow.
We all laid ourselves down flat upon our backs and kept our mouths wide open. The rain splashed into my face, wetted my lips, and trickled down my throat. Never can I describe the ecstasy with which I imbibed that renovat- ing moisture. The parched and swollen glands relaxed, I breathed afresh, and my whole being seemed revived with a strange and requickened life.
The rain lasted about twenty minutes, when the cloud, only half exhausted, passed quite away from over us.
We grasped each other's hands as we rose from the plat- form on which we had been lying, and mutual congratula- tions, mingled with gratitude, poured forth from our long silent lips. Hope, however evanescent it might be, for the moment had returned, and we yielded to the expectation that, ere long, other and more abundant clouds might come and replenish our store.
The next consideration was how to preserve and econo- mize what little had been collected by the barrel, or imbibed by the outspread sails. It was found that only a few pints of rain-water had fallen into the barrel; to this small quantity the sailors were about to add what they could by wringing out the saturated sails, when Curtis made them desist from their intention."Stop, stop!" he said "we must wait a moment; we must see whether this water from the sails is drinkable."
I looked at him in amazement. Why should not this be as drinkable as the other? He squeezed a few drops out of one of the folds of a sail into a tin pot, and put it to his lips. To my surprise, he rejected it immediately, and upon tasting it for myself I found it not merely brackish, but briny as the sea itself. The fact was that the canvas had been so long exposed to the action of the waves, that it had become thoroughly impregnated by salt, which of course was taken up again by the water that fell upon it. Dis- appointed we were; but with several pints of water in our possession, we were not only contented for the present, but sanguine in our prospect for the future.
My Fast Is Broken
JANUARY 17. -- As a natural consequence of the allevia- tion of our thirst, the pangs of hunger returned more vio- lently than ever. Although we had no bait, and even if we had we could not use it for want of a whirl, we could not help asking whether no possible means could be devised for securing one out of the many sharks that were still per- petually swarming about the raft. Armed with knives, like the Indians in the pearl fisheries, was it not practicable to attack the monsters in their own element? Curtis expressed his willingness personally to make the attempt, but so numerous were the sharks that we would not for one moment hear of his risking his life in a venture of which the danger was as great as the success was doubtful.
By plunging into the sea, or by gnawing at a piece of metal, we could always, or at least often, do something that cheated us into believing that we were mitigating the pains of thirst; but with hunger it was different. The prospect, too, of rain seemed hopeful, while for getting food there appeared no chance; and, as we knew that nothing could compensate for the lack of nutritive matter, we were soon all cast down again. Shocking to confess, it would be untrue to deny that we surveyed each other with the eye of an eager longing; and I need hardly explain to what a degree of savageness the one idea that haunted us had re- duced our feelings.
Ever since the storm-cloud brought us the too transient shower the sky has been tolerably clear, and although at that time the wind had slightly freshened, it has since dropped, and the sail hangs idly against our mast. Except for the trifling relief it brings by modifying the tempera- ture, we care little now for any breeze. Ignorant as we are as to what quarter of the Atlantic we have been carried by the currents, it matters very little to us from what direc- tion the wind may blow if only it would bring, in rain or dew, the moisture of which we are so dreadfully in need.
My brain is haunted by most horrible nightmares; not that I suppose I am in anyway more distressed than my companions, who are lying in their usual places, vainly endeavoring to forget their sufferings in sleep.
After a time I fell into a restless, dreamy doze. I was neither asleep nor awake. How long I remained in that state of stupor I could hardly say, but at length a strange sensation brought me to myself. Was I dreaming, or was there not really some unaccustomed odor floating in the air? My nostrils became distended, and I could scarcely suppress a cry of astonishment; but some instinct kept me quiet, and I laid myself down again with the puzzled sen- sation sometimes experienced when we have forgotten a word or name. Only a few minutes, however, had elapsed before another still more savory puff induced me to take several long inhalations. Suddenly, the truth seemed to flash across my mind. "Surely," I muttered to myself, "this must be cooked meat that I can smell."
Again and again I sniffed, and became more convinced than ever that my senses were not deceiving me. But from what part of the raft could the smell proceed? I rose to my knees, and having satisfied myself that the odor came from the front, I crept stealthily as a cat under the sails and between the spars in that direction. Following the promptings of my scent, rather than my vision, like a blood- hound in track of his prey. I searched everywhere I could, now finding, now losing, the smell according to my change of position, or the dropping of the wind. At length I got the true scent, once for all, so that I could go straight to the object for which I was in search.
Approaching the starboard angle of the raft, I came to the conclusion that the smell that had thus keenly ex- cited my cravings was the smell of smoked bacon; the mem- branes of my tongue almost bristled with the intenseness of my longing.
Crawling along a little farther, under a thick roll of sail-cloth, I was not long in securing my prize. Forcing my arm below the roll, I felt my hand in contact with some- thing wrapped up in paper. I clutched it up, and carried it off to a place where I could examine it by the help of the light of the moon that had now made its appearance above the horizon. I almost shrieked for joy. It was a piece of bacon. True, it did not weigh many ounces, but small as it was it would suffice to alleviate the pangs of hunger for one day at least. I was just on the point of raising it to my mouth, when a hand was laid upon my arm. It was only by a most determined effort that I kept myself from screaming out. One instant more, and I found myself face to face with Hobart.
In a moment I understood all. Plainly this rascal Ho- bart had saved some provisions from the wreck, upon which he had been subsisting ever since. The steward had pro- vided for himself, while all around him were dying of starvation. Detestable wretch! This accounts for the inconsistency of his well-to-do looks and his pitiable groans. Vile hypocrite!Yet why, it struck me, should I complain? Was not I reaping the benefit of that secret store that he, for himself, had saved?
But Hobart had no idea of allowing me the peaceable possession of what he held to be his own. He made a dash at the fragment of bacon, and seemed determined to wrest it from my grasp. We struggled with each other, but although our wrestling was very violent, it was very noise- less.
We were both of us aware that it was absolutely neces- sary that not one of those on board should know anything at all about the prize for which we were contending. Nor was my own determination lessened by hearing him groan out that it was his last, his only morsel. "His!" I thought; "it shall be mine now!"
And still careful that no noise of commotion should arise, I threw him on his back, and grasping his throat so that he gurgled again, I held him down until, in rapid mouth- fuls, I had swallowed the last scrap of the food for which we had fought so hard.I released my prisoner, and quietly crept back to my own quarters. And not a soul is aware that I have broken my fast!
Hobart Hangs Himself
JANUARY 18. -- After this excitement I awaited the ap- proach of day with a strange anxiety. My conscience told me that Hobart had the right to denounce me in the pres- ence of all my fellow-passengers; yet my alarm was vain. The idea of my proceedings being exposed by him was quite absurd; in a moment he would himself be murdered without pity by the crew, if it should be revealed that, un- known to them, he had been living on some private store which, by clandestine cunning, he had reserved. But, in spite of my anxiety, I had a longing for day to come.
The bit of food that I had thus stolen was very small; but small as it was it had alleviated my hunger; and I was now tortured with remorse, because I had not shared the meager morsel with my fellow-sufferers. Miss Herbey, Andre, his father, all had been forgotten, and from the bot- tom of my heart I repented of my cruel selfishness.
Meantime the moon rose high in the heavens, and the first streaks of dawn appeared. There is no twilight in these low latitudes, and the full daylight came well nigh at once. I had not closed my eyes since my encounter with the steward, and ever since the first blush of day I had labored under the impression that I could see some unusual dark mass half way up the mast. But although it again and again caught my eye, it hardly roused my curiosity, and I did not rise from the bundle of sails on which I was lying to ascertain what it really was. But no sooner did the rays of the sun fall upon it than I saw at once that it was the body of a man, attached to a rope, and swinging to and fro with the motion of the raft.
A horrible presentiment carried me to the foot of the mast, and, just as I had guessed, Hobart had hanged him- self. I could not for a moment doubt that it was I myself that had impelled him to the suicide. A cry of horror had scarcely escaped my lips, when my fellow-passengers were at my side, and the rope was cut. Then came the sailors. And what was it that made the group gather so eagerly around the body? Was it a humane desire to see whether any sparks of life remained? No, indeed; the corpse was cold, and the limbs were rigid; there was no chance that animation should be restored. What then was it that kept them lingering so close around? It was only too apparent what they were about to do.
But I did not, could not, look. I refused to take part in the horrible repast that was proposed. Neither would Miss Herbey, Andre, nor his father, consent to alleviate their pangs of hunger by such revolting means. I know nothing for certain as to what Curtis did, and I did not venture to inquire; but of the others, -- Falsten, Dowlas, the boatswain, and all the rest, -- I know that, to assuage their cravings, they consented to reduce themselves to the level of beasts of prey; they were transformed from human beings into ravenous brutes.
The four of us who sickened at the idea of partaking of the horrid meal withdrew to the seclusion of our tent; it was bad enough to hear, without witnessing the appalling operation. But, in truth, I had the greatest difficulty in the world in preventing Andre from rushing out upon the can- nibals, and snatching the odious food from their clutches. I represented to him the hopelessness of his attempt, and tried to reconcile him by telling him that if they liked the food they had a right to it. Hobart had not been mur- dered; he had died by his own hand; and, after all, as the boatswain had once remarked to me, "It was better to eat a dead man than a live one."Do what I would, however, I could not quiet Andre's feeling of abhorrence; in his disgust and loathing he seemed for the time to have quite forgotten his own sufferings.
Meanwhile, there was no concealing the truth that we were ourselves dying of starvation, while our eight com- panions would probably, by their loathsome diet, escape that frightful destiny. Owing to his secret hoard of provisions Hobart had been by far the strongest among us; he had been supported, so that no organic disease had affected his tissues, and really might be said to be in good health when his chagrin drove him to his desperate suicide. But what was I thinking of! whither were my meditations carrying me away? was it not coming to pass that the cannibals were rousing my envy instead of exciting my horror?Very shortly after this I heard Dowlas talking about the possibility of obtaining salt by evaporating seawater in the sun; "and then," he added, "we can salt down the rest." The boatswain assented to what the carpenter had said, and probably the suggestion was adopted. Silence, the most profound, now reigns upon the raft. I presume that nearly all have gone to sleep. One thing I do know, that they are no longer hungry.
Hobart's Body Stolen
JANUARY 19. -- All through the day the sky remained un- clouded and the heat intense; and night came on without bringing much sensible moderation in the temperature. I was unable to get any sleep, and, toward morning, was dis- turbed by hearing an angry clamor going on outside the tent; it aroused M. Letourneur, Andre, and Miss Herbey, as much as myself, and we were anxious to ascertain the cause of the tumult.The boatswain, Dowlas, and all the sailors were storming at each other in frightful rage; and Curtis, who had come forward from the stern, was endeavoring to pacify them. "But who has done it? we must know who has done it," said Dowlas, scowling with vindictive passion on the group around him. "There's a thief," howled out the boatswain, "and he shall be found! Let's know who has taken it." "I haven't taken it!" "Nor I! Nor I!" cried the sailors one after another.
And then they set to work again to ransack every quarter of the raft; they rolled every spar aside, they overturned everything on board, and only grew more and more incensed with anger as their search proved fruitless.""Can YOU tell us," said the boatswain, coming up to me, "who is the thief?" "Thief!" I replied. "I don't know what you mean." And while we were speaking the others all came up to- gether, and told me that they had looked everywhere else, and that they were going now to search the tent.
"Shame!" I said. "You ought to allow those whom you know to be dying of hunger at least to die in peace. There is not one of us who has left the tent all night. Why suspect us?"
"Now just look here, Mr. Kazallon," said the boatswain, in a voice which he was endeavoring to calm down into moderation, "we are not accusing you of anything; we know well enough you, and all the rest of you, had a right to your shares as much as anybody; but that isn't it. It's all gone somewhere, every bit.""Yes," said Sandon gruffly; "it's all gone somewheres, and we are going to search the tent."
Resistance was useless, and Miss Herbey, M. Letourneur, and Andre were all turned out. I confess I was very fearful. I had a strong suspicion that for the sake of his son, for whom he was ready to ven- ture anything, M. Letourneur had committed the theft; in that case I knew that nothing would have prevented the in- furiated men from tearing the devoted father to pieces. I beckoned to Curtis for protection, and he came and stood beside me. He said nothing, but waited with his hands in his pockets, and I think I am not mistaken in my belief that there was some sort of a weapon in each.
To my great relief the search was ineffectual. There was no doubt that the carcass of the suicide had been thrown overboard, and the rage of the disappointed cannibals knew no bounds.
Yet who had ventured to do the deed? I looked at M. Letourneur and Miss Herbey; but their countenances at once betrayed their ignorance. Andre turned his face away, and his eyes did not meet my own. Probably it is he; but, if it be, I wonder whether he has reckoned up the consequences of so rash an act.
The Negro Becomes Insane
JANUARY 20 to 22. -- For the day or two after the hor- rible repast of the 18th those who had partaken of it ap- peared to suffer comparatively little either from hunger or thirst; but for the four of us who had tasted nothing, the agony of suffering grew more and more intense. It was enough to make us repine over the loss of the provision that had so mysteriously gone; and if any one of us should die, I doubt whether the survivors would a second time resist the temptation to assuage their pangs by tasting human flesh.
Before long, all the cravings of hunger began to return to the sailors, and I could see their eyes greedily glancing upon us, starved as they knew us to be, as though they were reck- oning our hours, and already were preparing to consume us as their prey.
As is always the case with shipwrecked men, we were tormented by thirst far more than by hunger; and if, in the height of our sufferings, we had been offered our choice be- tween a few drops of water and a few crumbs of biscuit, I do not doubt that we should, without exception, have pre- ferred to take the water.
And what a mockery to our condition did it seem that all this while there was water, water, nothing but water, every- where around us! Again and again, incapable of compre- hending how powerless it was to relieve me, I put a few drops within my lips, but only with the invariable result of bringing on a most trying nausea, and rendering my thirst more unendurable than before.
Forty-two days had passed since we quitted the sinking Chancellor. There could be no hope now; all of us must die, and by the most deplorable of deaths. I was quite conscious that a mist was gathering over my brain; I felt my senses sinking into a condition of torpor; I made an effort, but all in vain, to master the delirium that I was aware was taking possession of my reason. It is out of my power to decide for how long I lost my consciousness; but when I came to myself I found that Miss Herbey had folded some wet bandages around my forehead. I am somewhat better; but I am weakened, mind and body, and I am conscious that I have not long to live.
A frightful fatality occurred to-day. The scene was ter- rible. Jynxstrop the negro went raving mad. Curtis and several of the men tried their utmost to control him, but in spite of everything he broke loose, and tore up and down the raft, uttering fearful yells. He had gained possession of a handspike, and rushed upon us all with the ferocity of an infuriated tiger; how we contrived to escape mischief from his attacks, I know not. All at once, by one of those un- accountable impulses of madness, his rage turned against himself. With his teeth and nails he gnawed and tore away at his own flesh; dashing the blood into our faces, he shrieked out with a demoniacal grin, "Drink, drink!" and flinging us gory morsels, kept saying "Eat, eat!" In the midst of his insane shrieks he made a sudden pause, then dashing back again from the stern to the front, he made a bound and disappeared beneath the waves.
Falsten, Dowlas, and the boatswain, made a rush that at least they might secure the body; but it was too late; all that they could see was a crimson circle in the water, and some huge sharks disporting themselves around the spot.
All Hope Gone
JANUARY 23. -- Only eleven of us now remain; and the probability is very great that every day must now carry off at least its one victim, and perhaps more. The end of the tragedy is rapidly approaching, and save for the chance, which is next to an impossibility, of our sighting land, or being picked up by a passing vessel, ere another week has elapsed not a single survivor of the Chancellor will remain.
The wind freshened considerably in the night, and it is now blowing pretty briskly from the northeast. It has filled our sail, and the white foam in our wake is an indication that we are making some progress. The captain reckons that we must be advancing at the rate of about three miles an hour.
Curtis and Falsten are certainly in the best condition among us, and in spite of their extreme emaciation they bear up wonderfully under the protracted hardships we have all endured. Words cannot describe the melancholy state to which poor Miss Herbey bodily is reduced; her whole being seems absorbed into her soul, but that soul is brave and resolute as ever, living in heaven rather than on earth. The boatswain, strong, energetic man that he was, has shrunk into a mere shadow of his former self, and I doubt whether anyone would recognize him to be the same man. He keeps perpetually to one corner of the raft, his head dropped upon his chest, and his long, bony hands lying upon knees that project sharply from his worn-out trowsers. Unlike Miss Herbey, his spirit seems to have sunk into apathy, and it is at times difficult to believe that he is living at all, so motion- less and statue-like does he sit.
Silence continues to reign upon the raft. Not a sound, not even a groan, escapes our lips. We do not exchange ten words in the course of the day, and the few syllables that our parched tongues and swollen lips can pronounce are almost unintelligible. Wasted and bloodless, we are no longer human beings; we are specters.
Flaypole Becomes Delirious
JANUARY 24. -- 1 have inquired more than once of Curtis if he has the faintest idea to what quarter of the Atlantic we have drifted, and each time he has been unable to give me a decided answer, though from his general observation of the direction of the wind and currents he imagines that we have been carried westward, that is to say, toward the land.
To-day the breeze has dropped entirely, but the heavy swell is still upon the sea, and is an unquestionable sign that a tempest has been raging at no great distance. The raft labors hard against the waves, and Curtis, Falsten, and the boatswain, employ the little energy that remains to them in strengthening the joints. Why do they give themselves such trouble? Why not let the few frail planks part asunder, and allow the ocean to terminate our miserable ex- istence? Certain it seems that our sufferings must have reached their utmost limit, and nothing could exceed the torture that we are enduring. The sky pours down upon us a heat like that of molten lead, and the sweat that saturates the tattered clothes that hang about our bodies goes far to aggravate the agonies of our thirst. No words of mine can describe this dire distress; these sufferings are beyond human estimate.
Even bathing, the only means of refreshment that we possessed, has now become impossible, for ever since Jynx- strop's death the sharks have hung about the raft in shoals.
To-day I tried to gain a few drops of fresh water by evaporation, but even with the exercise of the greatest pa- tience, it was with the utmost difficulty that I obtained enough to moisten a little scrap of linen; and the only kettle that we had was so old and battered, that it would not bear the fire, so that I was obliged to give up the attempt in de- spair.
Falsten is now almost exhausted, and if he survives us at all, it can only be for a few days. Whenever I raised my head I always failed to see him, but he was probably lying sheltered somewhere beneath the sails. Curtis was the only man who remained on his feet, but with indomitable pluck he continued to stand on the front of the raft, waiting, watching, hoping. To look at him, with his unflagging energy, almost tempted me to imagine that he did well to hope, but I dared not entertain one sanguine thought, and there I lay, waiting, nay, longing for death.
How many hours passed away thus I cannot tell, but after a time a loud peal of laughter burst upon my ear. Someone else, then, was going mad, I thought; but the idea did not rouse me in the least. The laughter was repeated with greater vehemence, but I never raised my head. Presently I caught a few incoherent words.
"Fields, fields, gardens and trees! Look, there's an inn under the trees! Quick, quick! brandy, gin, water! a guinea a drop! I'll pay for it! I've lots of money! lots! lots!" Poor deluded wretch! I thought again; the wealth of a nation could not buy a drop of water here. There was silence for a minute, when all of a sudden I heard the shout of "Land! land!"
The words acted upon me like an electric shock, and, with a frantic effort, I started to my feet. No land, indeed, was visible, but Flaypole, laughing, singing, and gesticulating, was raging up and down the raft. Sight, taste, and hear- ing -- all were gone; but the cerebral derangement supplied their place, and in imagination the maniac was conversing with absent friends, inviting them into the George Inn at Cardiff, offering them gin, whiskey, and, above all, water! Stumbling at every step, and singing in a cracked, discordant voice, he staggered about among us like an intoxicated man. With the loss of his senses all his sufferings had vanished, and his thirst was appeased. It was hard not to wish to be a partaker of his hallucination.
Dowlas, Falsten, and the boatswain, seemed to think that the unfortunate wretch would, like Jynxstrop, put an end to himself by leaping into the sea; but, determined this time to preserve the body, that it might serve a better purpose than merely feeding the sharks, they rose and followed the madman everywhere he went, keeping a strict eye upon his every movement.
But the matter did not end as they expected. As though he were really intoxicated by the stimulants of which he had been raving, Flaypole at last sank down in a heap in a cor- ner of the raft, where he lay lost in a heavy slumber.
I Decide To Commit Suicide
JANUARY 25. -- Last night was very misty, and for some unaccountable reason, one of the hottest that can be imagined. The atmosphere was really so stifling, that it seemed as if it only required a spark to set it alight. The raft was not only quite stationary, but did not even rise and fall with any motion of the waves.
During the night I tried to count how many there were now on board, but I was utterly unable to collect my ideas sufficiently to make the enumeration. Sometimes I counted ten, sometimes twelve, and although I knew that eleven, since Jynxstrop was dead, was the correct number, I could never bring my reckoning right. Of one thing I felt quite sure, and that was that the number would very soon be ten. I was convinced that I could myself last but very little longer. All the events and associations of my life passed rapidly through my brain. My country, my friends, and my family all appeared as it were in a vision, and seemed as though they had come to bid me a last farewell.
Toward morning I woke from my sleep, if the languid stupor into which I had fallen was worthy of that name. One fixed idea had taken possession of my brain -- I would put an end to myself; and I felt a sort of pleasure as I gloated over the power that I had to terminate my suffer- ings. I told Curtis, with the utmost composure, of my in- tention, and he received the intelligence as calmly as it was delivered.
"Of course you will do as you please," he said; "for my own part, I shall not abandon my post. It is my duty to remain here; and unless death comes to carry me away, I shall stay where I am to the very last."
The dull gray fog still hung heavily over the ocean, but the sun was evidently shining above the mist, and would, in course of time, dispel the vapor. Toward seven o'clock I fancied I heard the cries of birds above my head. The sound was repeated three times, and as I went up to the cap- tain to ask him about it, I heard him mutter to himself:"Birds! Why, that looks as if land were not far off."
But although Curtis might still cling to the hope of reach- ing land, I knew not what it was to have one sanguine thought. For me there was neither continent nor island; the world was one fluid sphere, uniform, monotonous, as in the most primitive period of its formation. Nevertheless it must be owned that it was with a certain amount of im- patience that I awaited the rising of the mist, for I was anxious to shake off the phantom fallacies that Curtis's words had suggested to my mind.
Not till eleven o'clock did the fog begin to break, and as it rolled in heavy folds along the surface of the water, I could every now and then catch glimpses of a clear blue sky beyond. Fierce sunbeams pierced the cloud-rifts, scorching and burning our bodies like red-hot iron; but it was only above our heads that there was any sunlight to condense the vapor; the horizon was still quite invisible. There was no wind, and for half an hour longer the fog hung heavily round the raft, while Curtis, leaning against the side, strove to penetrate the obscurity. At length the sun burst forth in full power, and, sweeping the surface of the ocean, dispelled the fog and left the horizon open to our eyes.
There, exactly as we had seen it for the last six weeks, was the circle that bounded sea and sky -- unbroken, definite, distinct as ever! Curtis gazed with intensest scrutiny, but did not speak a word. I pitied him sincerely, for he alone of us all felt that he had not the right to put an end to his misery. For myself, I had fully determined that if I lived till the following day, I would die by my own hand. Whether my companions were still alive, I hardly cared to know; it seemed as though days had passed since I had seen them.
Night drew on, but I could not sleep for a moment. To- ward two o'clock in the morning my thirst was so intense that I was unable to suppress loud cries of agony. Was there nothing that would serve to quench the fire that was burning within me? What if, instead of drinking the blood of others, I were to drink my own? It would be all un- availing, I was well aware; but scarcely had the thought crossed my mind, than I proceeded to put it into execution. I unclasped my knife, and, stripping my arm, with a steady thrust I opened a small vein. The blood oozed out slowly, drop by drop, and as I eagerly swallowed the source of my very life, I felt that for a moment my torments were re- lieved. But only for a moment; all energy had failed my pulses, and almost immediately the blood had ceased to flow.
How long it seemed before the morning dawned! and when that morning came it brought another fog, heavy as before, that again shut out the horizon. The fog was hot as the burning steam that issues from a boiler. It was to be my last day upon earth, and I felt that I should like to press the hand of a friend before I died. Curtis was stand- ing near, and crawling up to him, I took his hand in my own. He seemed to know that I was taking my farewell, and with one last lingering hope he endeavored to restrain me. But all in vain; my mind was finally made up.
I should have liked to speak once again to M. Letourneur, Andre, and Miss Herbey, but my courage failed me. I knew that the young girl would read my resolution in my eyes, and that she would speak to me of duty, and of God, and of eternity, and I dared not meet her gaze; and I would not run the risk of being persuaded to wait until a lingering death should overtake me. I returned to the back of the raft, and after making several efforts, I managed to get on to my feet. I cast one long look at the pitiless ocean and the unbroken horizon; if a sail or the outline of a coast had broken on my view, I believe that I should only have deemed myself the victim of an illusion; but nothing of the kind appeared, and the sea was dreary as a desert.
It was ten o'clock in the morning. The pangs of hunger and the torments of thirst were racking me with redoubled vigor. All instinct of self-preservation had left me, and I felt that the hour had come when I must cease to suffer. Just as I was on the point of casting myself headlong into the sea, a voice, which I recognized as Dowlas's, broke upon my ear.
We Decide To Draw Lots
JANUARY 26. -- All heard and understood the proposition; in fact it had been in contemplation for several days, but no one had ventured to put the idea into words. However, it was done now; lots were to be drawn, and to each would be assigned his share of the body of the one ordained by fate to be the victim. For my own part, I profess that I was quite resigned for the lot to fall upon myself. I thought I heard Andre Letourneur beg for an exception to be made in favor of Miss Herbey; but the sailors raised a murmur of dissent. As there were eleven of us on board, there were ten chances to one in each one's favor -- a proportion which would be diminished if Miss Herbey were excluded; so that the young lady was forced to take her chance among the rest.
It was then half-past ten, and the boatswain, who had been roused from his lethargy by what the carpenter had said, insisted that the drawing should take place immediately. There was no reason for delaying the fatal lottery. There was not one of us that clung in the least to life; and we knew that, at the worst, whoever should be doomed to die, would only precede the rest by a few days, or even hours. All that we desired was just once to slake our raging thirst and moderate our gnawing hunger.
How all the names found their way to the bottom of a hat I cannot tell. Very likely Falsten wrote them upon a leaf torn from his memorandum-book. But be that as it may, the eleven names were there, and it was unanimously agreed that the last name drawn should be the victim.
But who would draw the names? There was hesitation for a moment; then "I will," said a voice behind me. Turn- ing round, I beheld M. Letourneur standing with out- stretched hand, and with his long white hair falling over his thin livid face that was almost sublime in its calmness. I divined at once the reason of this voluntary offer; I knew that it was the father's devotion in self-sacrifice that led him to undertake the office."As soon as you please," said the boatswain. M. Letourneur proceeded to draw out the folded strips of paper, one by one, and, after reading out loud the name upon it, handed it to its owner.
The first name called was that of Burke, who uttered a cry of delight; then followed Flaypole and the boatswain. What his name really was I never could exactly learn. Then came Falsten, Curtis, Sandon. More than half had now been called, and my name had not yet been drawn. I calculated my remaining chance; it was still four to one in my favor.
M. Letourneur continued his painful task. Since Burke's first exclamation of joy not a sound had escaped our lips, but all were listening in breathless silence. The seventh name was Miss Herbey's, but the young girl heard it with- out a start. Then came mine, yes, mine! and the ninth was was that of Letourneur.
"Which one?" asked the boatswain.
"Go on!" almost roared the carpenter, surveying his partner in peril as though he could devour him. M. Le- tourneur almost had a smile upon his lips, as he drew forth the last paper but one, and with a firm, unfaltering voice, marvelous for his age, unfolded it slowly, and read the name of Dowlas. The carpenter gave a yell of relief as he heard the word.
M. Letourneur took the last bit of paper from the hat, and, without looking at it, tore it to pieces. But, unper- ceived by all but myself, one little fragment flew into a corner of the raft. I crawled toward it and picked it up. On one side of it was written Andr--; the rest of the word was torn away. M. Letourneur saw what I had done, and, rushing toward me, snatched the paper from my hands, and flung it into the sea.
Miss Herbey Pleads For One Day MoreJANUARY 26. -- I understood it all; the devoted father hav- ing nothing more to give, had given his life for his son.
M. Letourneur was no longer a human being in the eyes of the famished creatures who were now yearning to see him sacrificed to their cravings. At the very sight of the victim thus provided, all the tortures of hunger returned with redoubled violence. With lips distended, and teeth dis- played, they waited like a herd of carnivora until they could attack their prey with brutal voracity; it seemed almost doubtful whether they would not fall upon him while still alive. It seemed impossible that any appeal to their human- ity could, at such a moment, have any weight; nevertheless, the appeal was made, and, incredible as it may seem, pre- vailed.
Just as the boatswain was about to act the part of butcher, and Dowlas stood, hatchet in hand, ready to complete the barbarous work, Miss Herbey advanced, or rather crawled, toward them.
"My friends," she pleaded, "will you not wait just one more day? If no land or ship is in sight to-morrow, then I suppose our poor companion must become your victim. But allow him one more day; in the name of mercy I en- treat, I implore you."
My heart bounded as she made her pitiful appeal. It seemed to me as though the noble girl had spoken with an inspiration on her lips, and I fancied that, perhaps, in super- natural vision she had viewed the coast or the ship of which she spoke; and one more day was not much to us who had already suffered so long, and endured so much.Curtis and Falsten agreed with me, and we all united to support Miss Herbey's merciful petition. The sailors did not utter a murmur, and the boatswain in a smothered voice said: "Very well, we will wait till daybreak to-morrow," and threw down his hatchet.
To-morrow, then, unless land or a sail appear, the horrible sacrifice will be accomplished. Stifling their sufferings by a strenuous effort, all returned to their places. The sailors crouched beneath the sails, caring nothing about scanning the ocean. Food was in store for them to-morrow, and that was enough for them.
As soon as Andre Letourneur came to his senses, his first thought was for his father, and I saw him count the pas- sengers on the raft. He looked puzzled; when he lost con- sciousness there had been only two names left in the hat, those of his father and the carpenter; and yet M. Letourneur and Dowlas were both there still. Miss Herbey went up to him and told him quietly that the drawing of the lots had not yet been finished. Andre asked no further ques- tion, but took his father's hand. M. Letourneur's counte- nance was calm and serene; he seemed to be conscious of nothing except that the life of his son was spared, and as the two sat conversing in an undertone at the back of the raft, their whole existence seemed bound up in each other.
Meantime, I could not disabuse my mind of the impres- sion caused by Miss Herbey's intervention. Something told me that help was near at hand, and that we were approach- ing the termination of our suspense and misery; the chimeras that were floating through my brain resolved themselves into realities, so that nothing appeared to me more certain than that either land or sail, be they miles away, would be dis- covered somewhere to leeward.
I imparted my convictions to M. Letourneur and his son. Andre was as sanguine as myself; poor boy! he little thinks what a loss there is in store for him to-morrow. His father listened gravely to all we said, and whatever he might think in his own mind, he did not give us any discouragement; Heaven, he said, he was sure would still spare the survivors of the Chancellor, and then he lavished on his son caresses which he deemed to be his last.Some time afterward, when I was alone with him, M. Letourneur whispered in my ear: "Mr. Kazallon, I commend my boy to your care, and mark you, he must never know --" His voice was choked with tears, and he could not finish his sentence.
But I was full of hope, and, without a moment's inter- mission, I kept my eyes fixed upon the unbroken horizon. Curtis, Miss Herbey, Falsten, and even the boatswain, were also eagerly scanning the broad expanse of the sea.Night has come on; but I have still a profound conviction that through the darkness some ship will approach, and that at daybreak our raft will be observed.
JANUARY 27. -- I did not close my eyes all night, and was keenly alive to the faintest sounds, and every ripple of the water, and every murmur of the waves, broke distinctly on my ear. One thing I noticed and accepted as a happy omen; not a single shark now lingered round the raft. The wan- ing moon rose at a quarter to one, and through the feeble glimmer which she cast across the ocean, many and many a time I fancied I caught sight of the longed-for sail, lying only a few cables'-lengths away.
But when morning came, the sun rose once again upon a desert ocean, and my hopes began to fade. Neither ship nor shore had appeared, and as the shocking hour of execu- tion drew near, my dreams of deliverance melted away; I shuddered in my very soul as I was brought face to face with the stern reality. I dared not look upon the victim, and whenever his eyes, so full of calmness and resignation, met my own, I turned away my head. I felt choked with horror, and my brain reeled as though I were intoxi- cated.
It was now six o'clock, and all hope had vanished from my breast; my heart beat rapidly, and a cold sweat of agony broke out all over me. Curtis and the boatswain stood by the mast attentively scanning the horizon. The boatswain's countenance was terrible to look upon; one could see that although he would not forestall the hour, he was determined not to wait a moment after it arrived. As for the captain, it was impossible to tell what really passed within his mind; his face was livid, and his whole existence seemed concen- trated in the exercise of his power of vision. The sailors were crawling about the platform, with their eyes gleaming, like the wild beasts ready to pounce upon their devoted prey.
I could no longer keep my place, and glided along to the front of the raft. The boatswain was still standing intent on his watch, but all of a sudden, in a voice that made me start, he shouted:
"Now then, time's up!" and followed by Dowlas, Burke, Flaypole, and Sandon, ran to the back of the raft. As Dowlas seized the hatchet convulsively, Miss Herbey could not suppress a cry of terror. Andre started to his feet."What are you going to do to my father?" he asked in accents choked with emotion. "My boy," said M. Letourneur, "the lot has fallen upon me, and I must die!"
"Never!" shrieked Andre, throwing his arms about his father. "They shall kill me first. It was I who threw Hobart's body into the sea, and it is I who ought to die!" But the words of the unhappy youth had no other effect than to increase the fury of the men who were so stanchly bent upon their bloody purpose.
"Come, come, no more fuss," said Dowlas, as he tore the young man away from his father's embrace.
Andre fell upon his back, in which position two of the sailors held him down so tightly that he could not move, while Burke and Sandon carried off their victim to the front.
All this had taken place much more rapidly than I have been able to describe it. I was transfixed with horror, and much as I wished to throw myself between M. Letourneur and his executioners, I seemed to be rooted to the spot where I was standing.Meantime the sailors had been taking off some of M. Letourneur's clothes, and his neck and shoulders were al- ready bare.
"Stop a moment!" he said in a tone in which was the ring of indomitable courage. "Stop! I don't want to de- prive you of your ration; but I suppose you will not require to eat the whole of me to-day."The sailors, taken back by his suggestion, stared at him with amazement. "There are ten of you," he went on. "My two arms will give you each a meal; cut them off for to-day, and to- morrow you shall have the rest of me." "Agreed!" cried Dowlas; and as M. Letourneur held out his bare arms, quick as lightning the carpenter raised his hatchet.
Curtis and I could bear this scene no longer; while we were alive to prevent it, this butchery should not be per- mitted, and we rushed forward simultaneously to snatch the victim from his murderers. A furious struggle ensued, and in the midst of the melee, I was seized by one of the sailors, and hurled violently into the sea.Closing my lips, I tried to die of suffocation in the water; but in spite of myself, my mouth opened, and a few drops trickled down my throat. Merciful Heaven! the water was fresh!
Near The Coast Of South America
JANUARY 27 continued. -- A change came over me as if by miracle. No longer had I any wish to die, and already Curtis, who had heard my cries, was throwing me a rope. I seized it eagerly, and was hauled up on to the raft."Fresh water!" were the first words I uttered. "Fresh water?" cried Curtis; "why then, my friends, we are not far from land!"
It was not too late: the blow had not been struck, and so the victim had not yet fallen. Curtis and Andre (who had regained his liberty) had fought with the cannibals, and it was just as they were yielding to over-powering numbers that my voice had made itself heard.
The struggle came to an end. As soon as the words "fresh water" had escaped my lips, I leaned over the side of the raft and swallowed the life-giving liquid in greedy draughts. Miss Herbey was the first to follow my example, but soon Curtis, Falsten, and all the rest were on their knees and drinking eagerly. The rough sailors seemed as if by a magic touch transformed back from ravenous beasts to human beings, and I saw several of them raise their hands to heaven in silent gratitude. Andre and his father were the last to drink."But where are we?" I asked at length. "The land is there," said Curtis, pointing toward the west.
We all stared at the captain as though he were mocking us: no land was in sight, and the raft, just as ever, was the center of a watery waste. Yet our senses had not deceived us; the water we had been drinking was perfectly fresh."Yes," repeated the captain, "land is certainly there, not more than twenty miles to leeward." "What land?" inquired the boatswain. "South America," answered Curtis, "and near the Amazon; no other river has a current strong enough to freshen the ocean twenty miles from shore!"
JANUARY 27 continued. -- Curtis, no doubt, was right. The discharge from the mouth of the Amazon is enor- mously large, but we had probably drifted into the only spot in the Atlantic where we could find fresh water so far from land. Yet land undoubtedly was there, and the breeze was carrying us onward slowly but surely to our deliverance.
Miss Herbey's voice was heard pouring out fervent praise to Heaven, and we were all glad to unite our thanksgivings with hers. Then the whole of us (with the exception of Andre and his father, who remained by themselves to- gether at the stern) clustered in a group, and kept our ex- pectant gaze upon the horizon.We had not long to wait. Before an hour had passed, Curtis leaped in ecstasy and raised the joyous shout of "Land ahoy!" . . . . . My journal has come to a close. I have only to relate, as briefly as possible, the circum- stances that finally brought us to our destination.
A few hours after we first sighted land the raft was off Cape Magoari, on the island of Marajo, and was observed by some fishermen, who, with kind-hearted alacrity picked us up and tended us most carefully. They conveyed us to Para, where we became the objects of unbounded sympathy.
The raft was brought to land in latitude 0 deg. 12' north, so that since we abandoned the Chancellor we had drifted at least fifteen degrees to the southwest. Except for the in- fluence of the Gulf Stream we must have been carried far, far to the south, and in that case we should never have reached the mouth of the Amazon, and must inevitably have been lost.
Of the thirty-two souls -- nine passengers and twenty- three seamen -- who left Charleston on board the ship, only five passengers and six seamen remain. Eleven of us alone survive.
An official account of our rescue was drawn up by the Brazilian authorities. Those who signed were Miss Her- bey, J. R. Kazallon, M. Letourneur, Andre Letourneur, Mr. Falsten, the boatswain, Dowlas, Burke, Flaypole, San- don, and last, though not least,"Robert Curtis, Captain."
At Para we soon found facilities for continuing our homeward route. A vessel took us to Cayenne, where we secured a passage on board one of the steamers of the French Transatlantic Aspinwall line, the Ville de St. Na- zaire, which conveyed us to Europe. After all the dangers and privations which we have under- gone together, it is scarcely necessary to say that there has arisen between the surviving passengers of the Chancellor a bond of friendship too indissoluble, I believe, for either time or circumstance to destroy; Curtis must ever remain the honored and valued friend of those whose welfare he consulted so faithfully in their misfortunes; his conduct was beyond all praise.
When we were fairly on our homeward way, Miss Herbey by chance intimated to us her intention of retiring from the world and devoting the remainder of her life to the care of the sick and suffering."Then why not come and look after my son?" said M. Letourneur, adding, "he is an invalid, and he requires, as he deserves, the best of nursing."
Miss Herbey, after some deliberation, consented to be- come a member of their family, and finds in M. Letourneur a father, and in Andre a brother. A brother, I say; but may we not hope that she may be united by a dearer and a closer tie, and that the noble-hearted girl may experience the happiness that she so richly deserves?