The Survivors of the Chancellor HTML version
M. Letourneur Is Pessimistic
OCTOBER 30. -- Once again I talked to M. Letourneur about our situation, and
endeavored to animate him with the hope that we should not be detained for long in our
present pre- dicament; but he could not be brought to take a very san- guine view of our
"But surely," I protested, "it will not be difficult to throw overboard a few hundred bales
of cotton; two or three days at most will suffice for that."
"Likely enough," he replied, "when the business is once begun; but you must remember,
Mr. Kazallon, that the very heart of the cargo is still smoldering, and that it will still be
several days before anyone will be able to venture into the hold. Then the leak, too, that
has to be caulked; and, un- less it is stopped up very effectually, we shall only be doomed
most certainly to perish at sea. Don't then, be deceiving yourself; it must be three weeks
at least before you can ex- pect to put out to sea. I can only hope meanwhile that the
weather will continue propitious; it wouldn't take many storms to knock the Chancellor,
shattered as she is, com- pletely into pieces."
Here, then, was the suggestion of a new danger to which we were to be exposed; the fire
might be extinguished, the water might be got rid of by the pumps, but, after all, we must
be at the mercy of the wind and waves; and, although the rocky island might afford a
temporary refuge from the tempest, what was to become of passengers and crew if the
vessel should be reduced to a total wreck? I made no remonstrance, however, to this view
of our case, but merely asked M. Letourneur if he had confidence in Robert Curtis?
"Perfect confidence," he answered; "and I acknowledge it most gratefully, as a
providential circumstance, that Cap- tain Huntly had given him the command in time.
What- ever man can do I know that Curtis will not leave undone to extricate us from our
Prompted by this conversation with M. Letourneur I took the first opportunity of trying to
ascertain from Curtis himself how long he reckoned we should be obliged to re- main
upon the reef; but he merely replied, that it must de- pend upon circumstances, and that
he hoped the weather would continue favorable. Fortunately the barometer is rising
steadily, and there is every sign of a prolonged calm.
Meantime Curtis is taking active measures for totally extinguishing the fire. He is at no
great pains to spare the cargo, and as the bales that lie just above the level of the water are
still a-light he has resorted to the expedient of thoroughly saturating the upper layers of
the cotton, in order that the combustion may be stifled between the mois- ture descending
from above and that ascending from below. This scheme has brought the pumps once
more into requisi- tion. At present the crew are adequate to the task of work- ing them,
but I and some of our fellow-passengers are ready to offer our assistance whenever it
shall be necessary.