The Survivors of the Chancellor HTML version

Breakers To Starboard!
OCTOBER 20. -- Night. -- The scene, as night came on, was terrible indeed.
Notwithstanding the desperateness of our situation, however, there was not one of us so
paralyzed by fear, but that we fully realized the horror of it all.
Poor Ruby, indeed, is lost and gone, but his last words were productive of serious
consequences. The sailors caught his cry of "Picrate, picrate!" and being thus for the first
time made aware of the true nature of their peril, they resolved at every hazard to
accomplish their escape. Beside themselves with terror, they either did not, or would not,
see that no boat could brave the tremendous waves that were raging around, and
accordingly they made a frantic rush to- ward the yawl. Curtis again made a vigorous
endeavor to prevent them, but this time all in vain; Owen urged them on, and already the
tackling was loosened, so that the boat was swung over to the ship's side. For a moment it
hung sus- pended in mid-air, and then, with a final effort from the sailors, it was quickly
lowered into the sea. But scarcely had it touched the water, when it was caught by an
enor- mous wave which, recoiling with resistless violence, dashed it to atoms against the
Chancellor's side.
The men stood aghast; they were dumbfounded. Long- boat and yawl both gone, there
was nothing now remaining to us but a small whale-boat. Not a word was spoken; not a
sound was heard but the hoarse whistling of the wind, and the mournful roaring of the
flames. From the center of the ship, which was hollowed out like a furnace, there issued a
column of sooty vapor that ascended to the sky. All the passengers, and several of the
crew, took refuge in the aft-quarters of the poop. Mrs. Kear was lying sense- less on one
of the hen-coops, with Miss Herbey sitting pas- sively at her side; M. Letourneur held his
son tightly clasped to his bosom. I saw Falsten calmly consult his watch, and note down
the time in his memorandum-book, but I was far from sharing his composure, for I was
overcome by a nervous agitation that I could not suppress.
As far as we knew, Lieutenant Walter, the boatswain, and such of the crew as were not
with us, were safe in the bow; but it was impossible to tell how they were faring, be-
cause the sheet of fire intervened like a curtain, and cut off all communication between
stem and stern.
I broke the dismal silence, saying, "All over now Curtis."
"No, sir, not yet," he replied, "now that the panel is open we will set to work, and pour
water with all our might down into the furnace, and may be, we shall put it out, even yet."
"But how can you work your pumps while the deck is burning? and how can you get at
your men beyond that sheet of flame?"
He made no answer to my impetuous questions, and find- ing he had nothing more to say,
I repeated that it was all over now.