The Survivors of the Chancellor HTML version
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 im-
portant 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 --"