CHARLESTON, September 27, 1898. — It is high tide, and three o'clock in
the afternoon when we leave the Battery quay; the ebb carries us off
shore, and as Captain Huntly has hoisted both main and top sails, the
northerly breeze drives the Chancellor briskly across the bay. Fort
Sumter ere long is doubled, the sweeping batteries of the mainland on our
left are soon passed, and by four o'clock the rapid current of the
ebbing tide has carried us through the harbor mouth.
But as yet we have not reached the open sea we have still to thread our
way through the narrow channels which the surge has hollowed out amongst the
sand-banks. The captain takes a southwest course, rounding the
lighthouse at the corner of the fort; the sails are closely trimmed;
the last sandy point is safely coasted, and at length, at seven o'clock in
the evening, we are out free upon the wide Atlantic.
The Chancellor is a fine square-rigged three-master, of 900 tons burden,
and belongs to the wealthy Liverpool firm of Laird Brothers. She is two years
old, is sheathed and secured with copper, her decks being of teak, and the
base of all her masts, except the mizzen, with all their fittings, being
of iron. She is registered first class, A 1, and is now on her third voyage
between Charleston and Liverpool. As she wended her way through the channels
of Charleston harbor, it was the British flag that was lowered from
her mast-head; but without colors at all, no sailor could have hesitated
for a moment in telling her nationality, — for English she was, and
nothing but English from her water-line upward to the truck of her
I must now relate how it happens that I have taken my passage on board
the Chancellor on her return voyage to England.
At present there is no direct steamship service between South Carolina
and Great Britain, and all who wish to cross must go either northward to New
York or southward to New Orleans. It is quite true that if I had chosen a
start from New York I might have found plenty of vessels belonging to
English, French, or Hamburg lines, any of which would have conveyed me by a
rapid voyage to my destination; and it is equally true that if I had
selected New Orleans for my embarkation I could readily have
reached Europe by one of the vessels of the National Steam Navigation
Company, which join the French transatlantic line of Colon and Aspinwall. But
it was fated to be otherwise.
One day, as I was loitering about the Charleston quays, my eye lighted
on this vessel. There was something about the Chancellor that pleased me, and
a kind of involuntary impulse took me on board, where I found the internal
arrangements perfectly comfortable. Yielding to the idea that a voyage
in a sailing vessel had certain charms beyond the transit in a steamer, and
reckoning that with wind and wave in my favor there would be little material
difference in time; considering, moreover, that in these low latitudes the
weather in early autumn is fine and unbroken, I came to my decision, and
proceeded forthwith to secure my passage by this route to Europe.
Have I done right or wrong? Whether I shall have reason to regret my
determination is a problem to be solved in the future. However, I will begin
to record the incidents of our daily experience, dubious as I feel whether
the lines of my chronicle will ever find a reader.
CREW AND PASSENGERS
SEPTEMBER 28. — John Silas Huntly, the captain of the Chancellor, has
the reputation of being a most experienced navigator of the Atlantic. He is a
Scotchman by birth, a native of Dundee, and is about fifty years of age. He
is of the middle height and slight build, and has a small head, which he
has a habit of holding a little over his left shoulder. I do not pretend to
be much of a physiognomist, but I am inclined to believe that my few hours'
acquaintance with our captain has given me considerable insight into his
character. That he is a good seaman and thoroughly understands his
duties I could not for a moment venture to deny; but that he is a man of
resolute temperament, or that he possesses the amount of courage that would
render him, physically or morally, capable of coping with any great
emergency, I confess I cannot believe. I observed a certain heaviness
and dejection about his whole carriage. His wavering glances, the listless
motion of his hands, and his slow, unsteady gait, all seem to me to indicate
a weak and sluggish disposition. He does not appear as though he could be
energetic enough ever to be stubborn; he never frowns, sets his teeth, or
clenches his fists. There is something enigmatical about him; however, I
shall study him closely, and do what I can to understand the man who,
as commander of a vessel, should be to those around him "second only to
Unless I am greatly mistaken there is another man on board who, if
circumstances should require it, would take the more prominent position — I
mean the mate. I have hitherto, however, had so little opportunity of
observing his character, that I must defer saying more about him at
Besides the captain and this mate, whose name is Robert Curtis, our crew
consists of Walter, the lieutenant, the boatswain, and fourteen sailors,
all English or Scotch, making eighteen altogether, a number quite sufficient
for working a vessel of 900 tons burden. Up to this time my sole
experience of their capabilities is, that under the command of the mate,
they brought us skillfully enough through the narrow channels of Charleston;
and I have no reason to doubt that they are well up to their work.
My list of the ship's officials is incomplete unless I mention Hobart
the steward and Jynxstrop the negro cook.
In addition to these, the Chancellor carries eight passengers,
including myself. Hitherto, the bustle of embarkation, the arrangement of
cabins, and all the variety of preparations inseparable from starting on a
voyage for at least twenty or five-and-twenty days have precluded
the formation of any acquaintanceships; but the monotony of the voyage,
the close proximity into which we must be thrown, and the natural curiosity
to know something of each other's affairs, will doubtless lead us in due time
to an exchange of ideas. Two days have elapsed and I have not even seen
all the passengers. Probably sea-sickness has prevented some of them from
making an appearance at the common table. One thing, however, I do know;
namely, that there are two ladies occupying the stern cabin, the windows
of which are in the aft-board of the vessel.
I have seen the ship's list, and subjoin a list of the passengers.
They are as follows:
Mr. and Mrs. Kear, Americans, of Buffalo.
Miss Herbey, a young English lady, companion to
M. Letourneur and his son Andre, Frenchmen, of
William Falsten, a Manchester engineer.
John Ruby, a Cardiff merchant; and myself, J. R.
Kazallon, of London.
BILL OF LADING
SEPTEMBER 29. — Captain Huntly's bill of lading, that is to say, the
document that describes the Chancellor's cargo and the conditions of
transport, is couched in the following terms:
Bronsfield and Co., Agents, Charleston:
I, John Silas Huntly, of Dundee, Scotland,
commander of the ship Chancellor, of about 900 tons burden, now
at Charleston, do purpose, by the blessing of God, at the earliest
convenient season, and by the direct route, to sail for the port of
Liverpool, where I shall obtain my discharge. I do hereby acknowledge that I
have received from you, Messrs. Bronsfield and Co., Commission Agents,
Charleston, and have placed the same under the gun-deck of the aforesaid
ship, seventeen hundred bales of cotton, of the estimated value of 26,000 L.,
all in good condition, marked and numbered as in the margin; which goods I do
undertake to transport to Liverpool, and there to deliver, free
from injury (save only such injury as shall have been caused by the
chances of the sea), to Messrs. Laird Brothers, or to their order, or to
their representatives, who shall on due delivery of the said freight pay me
the sum of 2,000 L. inclusive, according to the charter-party, and damages
in addition, according to the usages and customs of the sea.
And for the fulfillment of the above covenant, I have pledged and do
pledge my person, my property, and my interest in the vessel aforesaid, with
all its appurtenances. In witness whereof, I have signed three agreements all
of the same purport, on the condition that when the terms of one are
accomplished, the other two shall be absolutely null and void.
Given at Charleston, September 13th, 1869.
J. S. HUNTLY.
From the foregoing document it will be understood that the Chancellor is
conveying 1,700 bales of cotton to Liverpool; that the shippers are
Bronsfield, of Charleston, and the consignees are Laird Brothers of
Liverpool. The ship was constructed with the especial design of carrying
cotton, and the entire hold, with the exception of a very limited space
reserved for passenger's luggage, is closely packed with the bales. The
lading was performed with the utmost care, each bale being pressed into its
proper place by the aid of screw-jacks, so that the whole freight forms one
solid and compact mass; not an inch of space is wasted, and the vessel is
thus made capable of carrying her full complement of cargo.
SOMETHING ABOUT MY FELLOW PASSENGERS
SEPTEMBER 30 to October 6. — The Chancellor is a rapid sailer, and more
than a match for many a vessel of the same dimensions. She scuds along
merrily in the freshening breeze, leaving in her wake, far as the eye can
reach, a long white line of foam as well defined as a delicate strip of
lace stretched upon an azure ground.
The Atlantic is not visited by many gales, and I have every reason to
believe that the rolling and pitching of the vessel no longer incommode any
of the passengers, who are all more or less accustomed to the sea. A vacant
seat at our table is now very rare; we are beginning to know something
about each other, and our daily life, in consequence, is becoming somewhat
M. Letourneur, our French fellow-passenger, often has a chat with me. He
is a fine tall man, about fifty years of age, with white hair and a grizzly
beard. To say the truth, he looks older than he really is: his drooping head,
his dejected manner, and his eye, ever and again suffused with tears,
indicate that he is haunted by some deep and abiding sorrow. He never laughs;
he rarely even smiles, and then only on his son; his countenance ordinarily
bearing a look of bitterness tempered by affection, while his general
expression is one of caressing tenderness. It excites an involuntary
commiseration to learn that M. Letourneur is consuming himself by
exaggerated reproaches on account of the infirmity of an afflicted son.
Andre Letourneur is about twenty years of age, with a gentle,
interesting countenance, but, to the irrepressible grief of his father, is a
hopeless cripple. His left leg is miserably deformed, and he is quite unable
to walk without the assistance of a stick. It is obvious that the
father's life is bound up with that of his son; his devotion is
unceasing; every thought, every glance is for Andre; he seems
to anticipate his most trifling wish, watches his slightest movement,
and his arm is ever ready to support or otherwise assist the child whose
sufferings he more than shares.
M. Letourneur seems to have taken a peculiar fancy to myself, and
constantly talks about Andre. This morning, in the course of conversation, I
"You have a good son, M. Letourneur. I have just been
talking to him. He is a most intelligent young man."
"Yes, Mr. Kazallon," replied M. Letourneur, brightening up into a
smile, "his afflicted frame contains a noble mind. He is like his mother, who
died at his birth."
"He is full of reverence and love for you, sir," I remarked.
"Dear boy!" muttered the father half to himself. "Ah, Mr. Kazallon," he
continued, "you do not know what it is to a father to have a son a cripple,
beyond hope of cure."
"M. Letourneur," I answered, "you take more than your share of the
affliction which has fallen upon you and your son. That M. Andre is entitled
to the very greatest commiseration no one can deny; but you should
remember, that after all a physical infirmity is not so hard to bear as
mental grief. Now, I have watched your son pretty closely, and unless I am
much mistaken there is nothing that troubles him so much as the sight of your
"But I never let him see it," he broke in hastily. "My sole thought is
how to divert him. I have discovered that, in spite of his physical weakness,
he delights in traveling; so for the last few years we have been constantly
on the move. We first went all over Europe, and are now returning from
visiting the principal places in the United States. I never allowed my son to
go to college, but instructed him entirely myself, and these travels, I
hope, will serve to complete his education. He is very intelligent,
and has a lively imagination, and I am sometimes tempted to hope that in
contemplating the wonders of nature he forgets his own infirmity."
"Yes, sir, of course he does," I assented.
"But," continued M. Letourneur, taking my hand, "although, perhaps, HE
may forget, I can never forget. Ah, sir, do you suppose that Andre can ever
forgive his parents for bringing him into the world a cripple?"
The remorse of the unhappy father was very distressing, and I was about
to say a few kind words of sympathy when Andre himself made his appearance.
M. Letourneur hastened toward him and assisted him up the few steep
steps that led to the poop.
As soon as Andre was comfortably seated on one of the benches, and his
father had taken his place by his side, I joined them, and we fell into
conversation upon ordinary topics, discussing the various points of the
Chancellor, the probable length of the passage, and the different details
of our life on board. I find that M. Letourneur's estimate of Captain
Huntly's character very much coincides with my own, and that, like me, he is
impressed with the man's undecided manner and sluggish appearance. Like me,
too, he has formed a very favorable opinion of Robert Curtis, the mate, a
man of about thirty years of age, of great muscular power, with a frame and a
will that seem ever ready for action.
While we were still talking of him, Curtis himself came on deck, and as
I watched his movements I could not help being struck with his physical
development; his erect and easy carriage, his fearless glance and slightly
contracted brow all betoken a man of energy, thoroughly endowed with the
calmness and courage that are indispensable to the true sailor. He seems a
kind-hearted fellow, too, and is always ready to assist and amuse young
Letourneur, who evidently enjoys his company. After he had scanned
the weather and examined the trim of the sails, he joined our party and
proceeded to give us some information about those of our fellow-passengers
with whom at present we have made but slight acquaintance.
Mr. Kear, the American, who is accompanied by his wife, has made a large
fortune in the petroleum springs in the United States. He is a man of about
fifty, a most uninteresting companion, being overwhelmed with a sense of
his own wealth and importance, and consequently supremely indifferent to
all around him. His hands are always in his pockets, and the chink of money
seems to follow him wherever he goes. Vain and conceited, a fool as well as
an egotist, he struts about like a peacock showing its plumage, and to
borrow the words of the physiognomist Gratiolet, "il se flaire, il se
savoure, il se goute." Why he should have taken his passage on board a mere
merchant vessel instead of enjoying the luxuries of a transatlantic
steamer, I am altogether at a loss to explain.
The wife is an insignificant, insipid woman, of about forty years of
age. She never reads, never talks, and I believe I am not wrong in saying,
never thinks. She seems to look without seeing, and listen without hearing,
and her sole occupation consists in giving her orders to her companion,
Miss Herbey, a young English girl of about twenty.
Miss Herbey is extremely pretty. Her complexion is fair and her eyes
deep blue, while her pleasing countenance is altogether free from that
insignificance of feature which is not unfrequently alleged to be
characteristic of English beauty. Her mouth would be charming if she ever
smiled, but, exposed as she is to the ridiculous whims and fancies of a
capricious mistress, her lips rarely relax from their ordinary grave
expression. Yet, humiliating as her position must be, she never utters a
word of open complaint, but quietly and gracefully performs her duties,
accepting without a murmur the paltry salary which the
bumptious petroleum-merchant condescends to allow her.
The Manchester engineer, William Falsten, looks like a thorough
Englishman. He has the management of some extensive hydraulic works in South
Carolina, and is now on his way to Europe to obtain some improved apparatus,
and more especially to visit the mines worked by centrifugal force,
belonging to the firm of Messrs. Cail. He is forty-five years of age, with
all his interests so entirely absorbed by his machinery that he seems to have
neither a thought nor a care beyond his mechanical calculations. Once
let him engage you in conversation, and there is no chance of escape; you
have no help for it but to listen as patiently as you can until he has
completed the explanation of his designs.
The last of our fellow-passengers, Mr. Ruby, is the type of a vulgar
tradesman. Without any originality or magnanimity in his composition, he has
spent twenty years of his life in mere buying and selling, and as he has
generally contrived to do business at a profit, he has realized
a considerable fortune. What he is going to do with the money, he does not
seem able to say: his ideas do not go beyond retail trade, his mind having
been so long closed to all other impressions that it appears incapable of
thought or reflection on any subject besides. Pascal says, "L'homme est
visiblement fait pour penser. C'est toute sa dignite et tout son merite;" but
to Mr. Ruby the phrase seems altogether inapplicable.
AN UNUSUAL ROUTE
OCTOBER 7. — This is the tenth day since we left Charleston, and I
should think our progress has been very rapid. Robert Curtis, the mate, with
whom I continue to have many a friendly chat, informed me that we could not
be far off the Bermudas; the ship's bearings, he said, were lat. 32 deg.
20' N. and long. 64 deg. 50' W. so that he had every reason to believe that
we should sight St. George's Island before night.
"The Bermudas!" I exclaimed. "But how is it we are off the Bermudas? I
should have thought that a vessel sailing from Charleston to Liverpool,
would have kept northward, and have followed the track of the Gulf
"Yes, indeed, sir," replied Curtis, "that is the usual course; but you
see that this time the captain hasn't chosen to take it."
"But why not?" I persisted.
"That's not for me to say, sir; he ordered us eastward, and eastward we
"Haven't you called his attention to it?" I inquired.
Curtis acknowledged that he had already pointed out what an unusual
route they were taking, but that the captain had said that he was quite
aware what he was about. The mate made no further remark; but the knit of his
brow, as he passed his hand mechanically across his forehead, made me
fancy that he was inclined to speak out more strongly.
"All very well, Curtis," I said, "but I don't know what to think about
trying new routes. Here we are at the 7th of October, and if we are to reach
Europe before the bad weather sets in, I should suppose there is not a day to
"Right, sir, quite right; there is not a day to be lost."
Struck by his manner, I ventured to add, "Do you mind, Curtis, giving me
your honest opinion of Captain Huntly?"
He hesitated a moment, and then replied shortly, "He is my captain,
This evasive answer of course put an end to any further interrogation on
Curtis was not mistaken. At about three o'clock the look-out man sung
out that there was land to windward, and descried what seemed as if it might
be a line of smoke in the northeast horizon. At six, I went on deck with
M. Letourneur and his son, and we could then distinctly make out the low
group of the Bermudas, encircled by their formidable chain of breakers.
"There," said Andre Letourneur to me, as we stood gazing at the
distant land, "there lies the enchanted archipelago, sung by your poet
Moore. The exile Waller, too, as long ago as 1643, wrote an enthusiastic
panegyric on the islands, and I have been told that at one time English
ladies would wear no other bonnets than such as were made of the leaves of
the Bermuda palm."
"Yes," I replied, "the Bermudas were all the rage in the seventeenth
century, although latterly they have fallen into comparative oblivion."
"But let me tell you, M. Andre," interposed Curtis, who had as usual
joined our party, "that although poets may rave, and be as enthusiastic as
they like about these islands, sailors will tell a different tale. The hidden
reefs that lie in a semicircle about two or three leagues from shore
make the attempt to land a very dangerous piece of business. And another
thing, I know. Let the natives boast as they will about their splendid
climate, they are visited by the most frightful hurricanes. They get the
fag-end of the storms that rage over the Antilles; and the fag-end of
a storm is like the tail of a whale; it's just the strongest bit of it. I
don't think you'll find a sailor listening much to your poets — your Moores,
and your Wallers."
"No doubt you are right, Mr. Curtis," said Andre, smiling, "but poets
are like proverbs; you can always find one to contradict another. Although
Waller and Moore have chosen to sing the praises of the Bermudas, it has been
supposed that Shakspeare was depicting them in the terrible scenes that
are found in 'The Tempest.'"
I may mention that there was not another of our fellow-passengers who
took the trouble to come on deck and give a glance at this strange cluster of
islands. Miss Herbey, it is true, was making an attempt to join us, but she
had barely reached the poop, when Mrs. Kear's languid voice was heard
recalling her for some trifling service to her side.
THE SARGASSO SEA
OCTOBER 8 to October 13. — The wind is blowing hard from the northeast,
and the Chancellor, under low-reefed top-sail and fore-sail, and laboring
against a heavy sea, has been obliged to be brought ahull. The joists and
girders all creak again until one's teeth are set on edge. I am the only
passenger not remaining below; but I prefer being on deck notwithstanding the
driving rain, fine as dust, which penetrates to the very skin. We have been
driven along in this fashion for the best part of two days; the
"stiffish breeze" has gradually freshened into "a gale"; the top-gallants
have been lowered, and, as I write, the wind is blowing with a velocity of
fifty or sixty miles an hour. Although the Chancellor has many good points,
her drift is considerable, and we have been carried far to the south;
we can only guess at our precise position, as the cloudy atmosphere
entirely precludes us from taking the sun's altitude.
All along, throughout this period, my fellow-passengers are totally
ignorant of the extraordinary course that we are taking. England lies to the
northeast, yet we are sailing directly southeast, and Robert Curtis owns that
he is quite bewildered; he cannot comprehend why the captain, ever
since this northeasterly gale has been blowing, should persist in allowing
the ship to drive to the south, instead of tacking to the northwest until she
gets into better quarters.
I was alone with Robert Curtis to-day upon the poop, and could not help
saying to him, "Curtis, is your captain mad?"
"Perhaps, sir, I might be allowed to ask what YOU think upon that
matter," was his cautious reply.
"Well, to say the truth," I answered. "I can hardly tell; but I confess
there is every now and then a wandering in his eye, and an odd look on his
face that I do not like. Have you ever sailed with him before?"
"No; this is our first voyage together. Again last night I spoke to him
about the route we were taking, but he only said he knew all about it, and
that it was all right."
"What do Lieutenant Walter and your boatswain think of it all?" I
"Think; why, they think just the same as I do," replied the mate; "but
if the captain chooses to take the ship to China we should obey his
"But surely," I exclaimed, "there must be some limit to your obedience!
Suppose the man is actually mad, what then?"
"If he should be mad enough, Mr. Kazallon, to bring the vessel into any
real danger, I shall know what to do."
With this assurance I am forced to be content. Matters, however, have
taken a different turn to what I bargained for when I took my passage on
board the Chancellor. The weather has become worse and worse. As I have
already said, the ship under her large low-reefed top-sail and
fore stay-sail has been brought ahull, that is to say, she copes directly
with the wind, by presenting her broad bows to the sea; and so we go on still
drift, drift, continually to the south.
How southerly our course has been is very apparent; for upon the night
of the 11th we fairly entered upon that portion of the Atlantic which is
known as the Sargasso Sea. An extensive tract of water is this, inclosed by
the warm current of the Gulf Stream, and thickly covered with the wrack,
called by the Spaniards "sargasso," the abundance of which so seriously
impeded the progress of Columbus's vessel on his first voyage.
Each morning at daybreak the Atlantic has presented an aspect so
remarkable, that at my solicitation, M. Letourneur and his son have ventured
upon deck to witness the unusual spectacle. The squally gusts make the metal
shrouds vibrate like harp-strings; and unless we were on our guard to keep
our clothes wrapped tightly to us, they would have been torn off our backs in
shreds. The scene presented to our eyes is one of strangest interest. The
sea, carpeted thickly with masses of prolific fucus, is a vast
unbroken plain of vegetation, through which the vessel makes her way as a
plow. Long strips of seaweed caught up by the wind become entangled in the
rigging, and hang between the masts in festoons of verdure; while others,
varying from two to three hundred feet in length, twine themselves up
to the very mast-head, from whence they float like streaming pennants. For
many hours now, the Chancellor has been contending with this formidable
accumulation of algae; her masts are circled with hydrophytes; her rigging is
wreathed everywhere with creepers, fantastic as the untrammeled tendrils
of a vine, and as she works her arduous course, there are times when I can
only compare her to an animated grove of verdure making its mysterious way
over some illimitable prairie.
VOICES IN THE NIGHT
OCTOBER 14. — At last we are free from the sea of vegetation, the
boisterous gale has moderated into a steady breeze, the sun is shining
brightly, the weather is warm and genial, and thus, two reefs in her
top-sails, briskly and merrily sails the Chancellor.
Under conditions so favorable, we have been able to take the ship's
bearings: our latitude, we find, is 21 deg. 33' N., our longitude, 50 deg.
Incomprehensible altogether is the conduct of Captain Huntly. Here we
are, already more than ten degrees south of the point from which we started,
and yet still we are persistently following a southeasterly course! I
cannot bring myself to the conclusion that the man is mad. I have
had various conversations with him: he has always spoken rationally and
sensibly. He shows no tokens of insanity. Perhaps his case is one of those in
which insanity is partial, and where the mania is of a character which
extends only to the matters connected with his profession. Yet it is
I can get nothing out of Curtis; he listens coldly whenever I allude
to the subject, and only repeats what he has said before, that nothing short
of an overt act of madness on the part of the captain could induce him to
supersede the captain's authority, and that the imminent peril of the
ship could alone justify him in taking so decided a measure.
Last evening I went to my cabin about eight o'clock, and after an hour's
reading by the light of my cabin-lamp, I retired to my berth and was soon
asleep. Some hours later I was aroused by an unaccustomed noise on deck.
There were heavy footsteps hurrying to and fro, and the voices of the men
were loud and eager, as if the crew were agitated by some strange
disturbance. My first impression was, that some tacking had been ordered
which rendered it needful to fathom the yards; but the vessel continuing to
lie to starboard convinced me that this was not the origin of the
commotion. I was curious to know the truth, and made all haste I could
to go on deck; but before I was ready, the noise had ceased. I heard Captain
Huntly return to his cabin, and accordingly I retired again to my own
berth. Whatever may have been the meaning of the maneuver, I cannot tell;
it did not seem to result in any improvement in the ship's pace; still it
must be owned there was not much wind to speed us along.
At six o'clock this morning I mounted the poop and made as keen a
scrutiny as I could of everything on board. Everything appeared as usual. The
Chancellor was running on the larboard tack, and carried low-sails,
top-sails, and gallant-sails. Well braced she was; and under a fresh, but
not uneasy breeze, was making no less than eleven knots an hour.
Shortly afterward M. Letourneur and Andre came on deck. The young man
enjoyed the early morning air, laden with its briny fragrance, and I assisted
him to mount the poop. In answer to my inquiry as to whether they had been
disturbed by any bustle in the night, Andre replied that he did not wake at
all, and had heard nothing.
"I am glad, my boy," said the father, "that you have slept so soundly. I
heard the noise of which Mr. Kazallon speaks. It must have been about three
o'clock this morning, and it seemed to me as though they were shouting.
I thought I heard them say; 'Here, quick, look to the hatches!' but as
nobody was called up, I presumed that nothing serious was the matter."
As he spoke I cast my eye at the panel-slides, which fore and aft of the
main-mast open into the hold. They seemed to be all close as usual, but I now
observed for the first time that they were covered with heavy tarpauling.
Wondering in my own mind what could be the reason for these extra
precautions I did not say anything to M. Letourneur, but determined to wait
until the mate should come on watch, when he would doubtless give me, I
thought, an explanation of the mystery.
The sun rose gloriously, with every promise of a fine dry day. The
waning moon was yet above the western horizon, for as it still wants three
days to her last quarter she does not set until 10:57 A. M. On consulting my
almanac, I find that there will be a new moon on the 24th, and that on
that day, little as it may affect us here in midocean, the phenomenon of
the high sygyzian tides will take place on the shores of every continent and
At the breakfast hour M. Letourneur and Andre went below for a cup of
tea, and I remained on the poop alone. As I expected, Curtis appeared, that
he might relieve Lieutenant Walter of the watch. I advanced to meet him,
but before he even wished me good morning, I saw him cast a quick and
searching glance upon the deck, and then, with a slightly contracted brow,
proceed to examine the state of the weather and the trim of the sails.
"Where is Captain Huntly?" he said to Walter.
"I have seen nothing of him," answered the lieutenant; "is there
anything fresh up?"
"Nothing whatever," was the curt reply.
They then conversed for a few moments in an undertone, and I could see
that Walter by his gesture gave a negative answer to some question which the
mate had asked him. "Send me the boatswain, Walter," said Curtis aloud as
the lieutenant moved away.
The boatswain immediately appeared, and another conversation was
carried on in whispers. The man repeatedly shook his head as he replied to
Curtis's inquiries, and then, in obedience to orders, called the men who were
on watch, and made them plentifully water the tarpauling that covered the
Curious to fathom the mystery I went up to Curtis and began to talk with
him upon ordinary topics, hoping that he would himself introduce the subject
that was uppermost in my mind; finding, however, that he did not allude to
it, I asked him point blank:
"What was the matter in the night, Curtis?"
He looked at me steadily, but made no reply.
"What was it?" I repeated. "M. Letourneur and myself were both of us
disturbed by a very unusual commotion overhead."
"Oh, a mere nothing," he said at length; "the man at the helm had made a
false move, and we had to pipe hands to brace the ship a bit; but it was soon
all put to rights. It was nothing, nothing at all."
I said no more; but I can not resist the impression that Robert Curtis
has not acted with me in his usual straightforward manner.
FIRE ON BOARD
OCTOBER 15 to October 18. — The wind is still in the northeast. There
is no change in the Chancellor's course, and to an unprejudiced eye all would
appear to be going on as usual. But I have an uneasy consciousness that
something is not quite right. Why should the hatchways be
so hermetically closed as though a mutinous crew was imprisoned between
decks? I can not help thinking too that there is something in the sailors so
constantly standing in groups and breaking off their talk so suddenly
whenever we approach; and several times I have caught the word "hatches"
which arrested M. Letourneur's attention on the night of the
On the 15th, while I was walking on the forecastle, I overheard one of
the sailors, a man named Owen, say to his mates:
"Now I just give you all warning that I am not going to wait until the
last minute. Everyone for himself, say I."
"Why, what do you mean to do?" asked Jynxstrop, the cook.
"Pshaw!" said Owen, "do you suppose that longboats were only made for
Something at that moment occurred to interrupt the conversation, and I
heard no more. It occurred to me whether there was not some conspiracy among
the crew, of which probably Curtis had already detected the symptoms. I
am quite aware that some sailors are most rebelliously disposed, and
required to be ruled with a rod of iron.
Yesterday and to-day I have observed Curtis remonstrating somewhat
vehemently with Captain Huntly, but there is no obvious result arising from
their interviews; the captain apparently being bent upon some purpose, of
which it is only too manifest that the mate decidedly disapproves.
Captain Huntly is undoubtedly laboring under strong nervous excitement;
and M. Letourneur has more than once remarked how silent he has become at
meal-times; for although Curtis continually endeavors to start some
subject of general interest, yet neither Mr. Falsten, Mr. Kear, nor Mr.
Ruby are the men to take it up, and consequently the conversation flags
hopelessly, and soon drops. The passengers too are now, with good cause,
beginning to murmur at the length of the voyage, and Mr. Kear, who
considers that the very elements ought to yield to his convenience,
lets the captain know by his consequential and haughty manner that he
holds him responsible for the delay.
During the course of yesterday the mate gave repeated orders for the
deck to be watered again and again, and although as a general rule this is
a business which is done, once for all, in the early morning, the crew did
not utter a word of complaint at the additional work thus imposed upon
them. The tarpaulins on the hatches have thus been kept continually wet,
so that their close and heavy texture is rendered quite impervious to the
air. The Chancellor's pumps afford a copious supply of water, so that I
should not suppose that even the daintiest and most luxurious craft belonging
to an aristocratic yacht club was ever subject to a more
thorough scouring. I tried to reconcile myself to the belief that it was
the high temperature of the tropical regions upon which we are entering, that
rendered such extra sousings a necessity, and recalled to my recollection
how, during the night of the 13th, I had found the atmosphere below deck
so stifling, that in spite of the heavy swell I was obliged to open the
porthole of my cabin, on the starboard side, to get a breath of air.
This morning at daybreak I went on deck. The sun had scarcely risen, and
the air was fresh and cool, in strange contrast to the heat which below the
poop had been quite oppressive. The sailors as usual were washing the deck.
A great sheet of water, supplied continuously by the pumps, was rolling in
tiny wavelets, and escaping now to starboard, now to larboard through the
scupper-holes. After watching the men for a while as they ran about
bare-footed, I could not resist the desire to join them, so taking off
my shoes and stockings, I proceeded to dabble in the flowing water.
Great was my amazement to find the deck perfectly hot to my feet! Curtis
heard my exclamation of surprise, and before I could put my thoughts into
"Yes! there is fire on board!"
CURTIS EXPLAINS THE SITUATION
OCTOBER 19. — Everything, then, is clear. The uneasiness of the crew,
their frequent conferences, Owen's mysterious words, the constant scourings
of the deck and the oppressive heat of the cabins which had been noticed
even by my fellow-passengers, all are explained.
After his grave communication, Curtis remained silent. I shivered with a
thrill of horror; a calamity the most terrible that can befall a voyager
stared me in the face, and it was some seconds before I could recover
sufficient composure to inquire when the fire was first discovered.
"Six days ago," replied the mate.
"Six days ago!" I exclaimed; "why, then, it was that night."
"Yes," he said, interrupting me; "it was the night you heard the
disturbance upon deck. The men on watch noticed a slight smoke issuing from
the large hatchway and immediately called Captain Huntly and myself. We
found beyond all doubt, that the cargo was on fire, and what was worse,
that there was no possibility of getting at the seat of the combustion. What
could we do? Why, we took the only precaution that was practicable under the
circumstances, and resolved most carefully to exclude every breath of
air from penetrating into the hold. For some time I hoped that we had been
successful. I thought that the fire was stifled; but during the last three
days there is every reason to make us know that it has been gaining strength.
Do what we will, the deck gets hotter and hotter, and unless it were
kept constantly wet, it would be unbearable to the feet. But I am glad,
Mr. Kazallon," he added; "that you have made the discovery. It is better that
you should know it." I listened in silence. I was now fully aroused to the
gravity of the situation and thoroughly comprehended how we were in the
very face of a calamity which it seemed that no human power could
"Do you know what has caused the fire?" I presently inquired.
"It probably arose," he answered, "from the spontaneous combustion of
the cotton. The case is rare, but it is far from unknown. Unless the cotton
is perfectly dry when it is shipped, its confinement in a damp or
ill-ventilated hold will sometimes cause it to ignite; and I have no doubt it
is this that has brought about our misfortune."
"But after all," I said, "the cause matters very little. Is there no
remedy? Is there nothing to be done?"
"Nothing, Mr. Kazallon," he said. "As I told you before, we have
adopted the only possible measure within our power to check the fire. At one
time I thought of knocking a hole in the ship's timbers just on her
water-line, and letting in just as much water as the pumps could
afterward get rid of again; but we found the combustion was right in the
middle of the cargo and that we should be obliged to flood the entire hold
before we could get at the right place. That scheme consequently was no good.
During the night, I had the deck bored in various places and water
poured down through the holes; but that again seemed of no use. There is
only one thing that can be done; we must persevere in excluding most
carefully every breath of outer air, so that perhaps the conflagration,
deprived of oxygen, may smoulder itself out. That is our only hope."
"But, you say the fire is increasing?"
"Yes; and that shows that in spite of all our care there is some
aperture which we have not been able to discover, by which, somehow or other,
air gets into the hold."
"Have you ever heard of a vessel surviving such circumstances?" I
"Yes, Mr. Kazallon," said Curtis; "it is not at all an unusual thing for
ships laden with cotton to arrive at Liverpool or Havre with a portion of
their cargo consumed; and I have myself known more than one captain run into
port with his deck scorching his very feet, and who, to save his
vessel and the remainder of his freight has been compelled to unload
with the utmost expedition. But, in such cases, of course the fire has been
more or less under control throughout the voyage; with us, it is increasing
day by day, and I tell you I am convinced there is an aperture
somewhere which has escaped our notice."
"But would it not be advisable for us to retrace our course, and make
for the nearest land?"
"Perhaps it would," he answered. "Walter and I, and the boatswain, are
going to talk the matter over seriously with the captain to-day. But, between
ourselves, I have taken the responsibility upon myself; I have
already changed the tack to the southwest; we are now straight before
the wind, and consequently we are sailing toward the coast."
"I need hardly ask," I added; "whether any of the other passengers are
at all aware of the imminent danger in which we are placed."
"None of them," he said; "not in the least; and I hope you will not
enlighten them. We don't want terrified women and cowardly men to add
to our embarrassment; the crew are under orders to keep a strict silence on
the subject. Silence is indispensable."
I promised to keep the matter a profound secret, as I fully entered into
Curtis's views as to the absolute necessity for concealment.
PICRATE OF POTASH ON BOARD
OCTOBER 20 and 21. — The Chancellor is now crowded with all the canvas
she can carry, and at times her topmasts threaten to snap with the pressure.
But Curtis is ever on the alert; he never leaves his post beside the man at
the helm, and without compromising the safety of the vessel, he contrives,
by tacking to the breeze, to urge her on at her utmost speed.
All day long on the 20th the passengers were assembled on the poop.
Evidently they found the heat of the cabins painfully oppressive, and most of
them lay stretched upon benches and quietly enjoyed the gentle rolling of the
vessel. The increasing heat of the deck did not reveal itself to their
well-shod feet, and the constant scouring of the boards did not excite any
suspicion in their torpid minds. M. Letourneur, it is true, did express his
surprise that the crew of an ordinary merchant vessel should be distinguished
by such extraordinary cleanliness; but as I replied to him in a very
casual tone, he passed no further remark. I could not help regretting that I
had given Curtis my pledge of silence, and longed intensely to communicate
the melancholy secret to the energetic Frenchman; for at times when I
reflect upon the eight-and-twenty victims who may probably, only too
soon, be a prey to the relentless flames, my heart seems ready to
The important consultation between captain, mate, lieutenant and
boatswain has taken place. Curtis has confided the result to me. He says that
Huntly, the captain, is completely demoralized; he has lost all power and
energy; and practically leaves the command of the ship to him. It is now
certain the fire is beyond control, and that sooner or later it will burst
out in full violence. The temperature of the crew's quarters has already
become almost unbearable. One solitary hope remains; it is that we may reach
the shore before the final catastrophe occurs. The Lesser Antilles are the
nearest land; and although they are some five or six hundred miles away, if
the wind remains northeast there is yet a chance of reaching them in
Carrying royals and studding-sails, the Chancellor during the last
four-and-twenty hours has held a steady course. M. Letourneur is the only one
of all the passengers who has remarked the change of tack; Curtis, however,
has set all speculation on his part at rest by telling him that he
wanted to get ahead of the wind, and that he was tacking to the west to
catch a favorable current.
To-day, the 21st, all has gone on as usual; and as far as the
observation of the passengers has reached, the ordinary routine has been
undisturbed. Curtis indulges the hope even yet that by excluding the air the
fire may be stifled before it ignites the general cargo; he has
hermetically closed every accessible aperture, and has even taken the
precaution of plugging the orifices of the pumps, under the
impression that their suction-tubes, running as they do to the bottom
of the hold, may possibly be channels for conveying some molecules of air.
Altogether, he considers it a good sign that the combustion has not betrayed
itself by some external issue of smoke.
The day would have passed without any incident worth recording, if I had
not chanced to overhear a fragment of a conversation which demonstrated that
our situation, hitherto precarious enough, had now become most
As I was sitting on the poop, two of my fellow-passengers, Falsten, the
engineer, and Ruby, the merchant, whom I had observed to be often in company,
were engaged in conversation almost close to me. What they said was
evidently not intended for my hearing, but my attention was directed
toward them by some very emphatic gestures of dissatisfaction on the
part of Falsten, and I could not forbear listening to what followed.
"Preposterous! shameful!" exclaimed Falsten; "nothing could be more
"Pooh! pooh!" replied Ruby, "it's all right; it is not the first time I
have done it."
"But don't you know that any shock at any time might cause an
"Oh, it's all properly secured," said Ruby, "tight enough; I have no
fears on that score, Mr. Falsten."
"But why," asked Falsten, "did you not inform the captain?"
"Just because if I had informed him, he would not have taken the case on
The wind dropped for a few seconds; and for a brief interval I could
not catch what passed; but I could see that Falsten continued to remonstrate,
while Ruby answered by shrugging his shoulders. At length I heard Falsten
"Well, at any rate, the captain must be informed of this, and the
package shall be thrown overboard. I don't want to be blown up."
I started. To what could the engineer be alluding? Evidently he had
not the remotest suspicion that the cargo was already on fire. In another
moment the words "picrate of potash" brought me to my feet, and with an
involuntary impulse I rushed up to Ruby, and seized him by the
"Is there picrate of potash on board?" I almost shrieked.
"Yes," said Falsten, "a case containing thirty pounds."
"Where is it?" I cried.
"Down in the hold, with the cargo."
THE PASSENGERS DISCOVER THEIR DANGER
WHAT my feelings were I cannot describe; but it was hardly in terror so
much as with a kind of resignation that I made my way to Curtis on the
forecastle, and made him aware that the alarming character of our situation
was now complete, as there was enough explosive matter on board to blow up
a mountain. Curtis received the information as coolly as it was delivered,
and after I had made him acquainted with all the particulars said, "Not a
word of this must be mentioned to anyone else, Mr. Kazallon. Where
is Ruby, now?"
"On the poop," I said.
"Will you then come with me, sir?"
Ruby and Falsten were sitting just as I had left them. Curtis walked
straight up to Ruby, and asked him whether what he had been told was
"Yes, quite true," said Ruby, complacently, thinking that the worst that
could befall him would be that he might be convicted of a little
I observed that Curtis was obliged for a moment or two to clasp his
hands tightly together behind his back to prevent himself from seizing the
unfortunate passenger by the throat; but suppressing his indignation, he
proceeded quietly, though sternly, to interrogate him about the facts of
the case. Ruby only confirmed what I had already told him. With
characteristic Anglo-Saxon incautiousness he had brought on board, with the
rest of his baggage, a case containing no less than thirty pounds of
picrate, and had allowed the explosive matter to be stowed in the hold with
as little compunction as a Frenchman would feel in smuggling a single
bottle of wine. He had not informed the captain of the dangerous nature of
the contents of the package, because he was perfectly aware that he would
have been refused permission to bring the package on board.
"Anyway," he said, with a shrug of his shoulders, "you can't hang me for
it; and if the package gives you so much concern, you are quite at liberty to
throw it into the sea. My luggage is insured."
I was beside myself with fury; and not being endowed with Curtis's
reticence and self-control, before he could interfere to stop me, I cried
"You fool! don't you know that there is fire on board?"
In an instant I regretted my words. Most earnestly I wished them
unuttered. But it was too late — their effect upon Ruby was electrical. He
was paralyzed with terror; his limbs stiffened convulsively; his eye was
dilated; he gasped for breath, and was speechless. All of a sudden
he threw up his arms, and, as though he momentarily expected an explosion,
he darted down from the poop, and paced frantically up and down the deck,
gesticulating like a madman, and shouting:
"Fire on board! Fire! Fire!"
On hearing the outcry, all the crew, supposing that the fire had now in
reality broken out, rushed on deck; the rest of the passengers soon joined
them, and the scene that ensued was one of the utmost confusion. Mrs. Kear
fell down senseless on the deck, and her husband, occupied in
looking after himself, left her to the tender mercies of Miss
Herbey. Curtis endeavored to silence Ruby's ravings, whilst I, in as few
words as I could, made M. Letourneur aware of the extent to which the cargo
was on fire. The father's first thought was for Andre, but the young man
preserved an admirable composure, and begged his father not to be
alarmed, as the danger was not immediate. Meanwhile the sailors had
loosened all the tacklings of the long-boat, and were preparing to launch
it, when Curtis's voice was heard peremptorily bidding them to desist; he
assured them that the fire had made no further progress; that Mr. Ruby had
been unduly excited and not conscious of what he had said; and he pledged
his word that when the right moment should arrive he would allow them all
to leave the ship; but that moment, he said, had not yet come.
At the sound of a voice which they had learned to honor and respect, the
crew paused in their operations, and the long-boat remained suspended in its
place. Fortunately, even Ruby himself in the midst of his ravings, had
not dropped a word about the picrate that had been deposited in the hold;
for although the mate had a power over the sailors that Captain Huntly had
never possessed, I feel certain that if the true state of the case had been
known, nothing on earth would have prevented some of them, in
their consternation, from effecting an escape. As it was, only Curtis,
Falsten, and myself were cognizant of the terrible secret.
As soon as order was restored, the mate and I joined Falsten on the
poop, where he had remained throughout the panic, and where we found him with
folded arms, deep in thought, as it might be, solving some hard mechanical
problem. He promised, at my request, that he would reveal nothing of the
new danger to which we were exposed through Ruby's imprudence. Curtis himself
took the responsibility of informing Captain Huntly of our
In order to insure complete secrecy, it was necessary to secure the
person of the unhappy Ruby, who, quite beside himself, continued to rave up
and down the deck with the incessant cry of "Fire! fire!" Accordingly Curtis
gave orders to some of his men to seize him and gag him; and before he
could make any resistance the miserable man was captured and safely lodged in
confinement in his own cabin.
CURTIS BECOMES CAPTAIN
OCTOBER 22. — Curtis has told the captain everything; for he persists
in ostensibly recognizing him as his superior officer, and refuses to conceal
from him our true situation. Captain Huntly received the communication in
perfect silence, and merely passing his hand across his forehead as though
to banish some distressing thought, re-entered his cabin without a
Curtis, Lieutenant Walter, Falsten, and myself have been discussing the
chances of our safety, and I am surprised to find with how much composure we
can all survey our anxious predicament.
"There is no doubt," said Curtis, "that we must abandon all hope of
arresting the fire; the heat toward the bow has already become well-nigh
unbearable, and the time must come when the flames will find a vent through
the deck. If the sea is calm enough for us to make use of the boats, well
and good; we shall of course get quit of the ship as quietly as we can; if,
on the other hand the weather should be adverse, or the wind be boisterous,
we must stick to our place, and contend with the flames to the very last;
perhaps, after all, we shall fare far better with the fire as a
declared enemy than as a hidden one."
Falsten and I agreed with what he said, and I pointed out to him that he
had quite overlooked the fact of there being thirty pounds of explosive
matter in the hold.
"No," he gravely replied, "I have not forgotten it, but it is a
circumstance of which I do not trust myself to think. I dare not run the risk
of admitting air into the hold by going down to search for the powder, and
yet I know not at what moment it may explode. No; it is a matter that I
cannot take at all into my reckoning; it must remain in higher hands
We bowed our heads in a silence which was solemn. In the present state
of the weather, immediate flight was, we knew, impossible.
After considerable pause, Mr. Falsten, as calmly as though he were
delivering some philosophic dogma, quietly observed:
"The explosion, if I may use the formula of science, is not necessary,
"But tell me, Mr. Falsten," I asked, "is it possible for picrate of
potash to ignite without concussion?"
"Certainly it is," replied the engineer. "Under ordinary circumstances,
picrate of potash although not MORE inflammable than common powder, yet
possesses the SAME degree of inflammability."
We now prepared to go on deck. As we left the saloon, in which we had
been sitting, Curtis seized my hand.
"Oh, Mr. Kazallon," he exclaimed, "if you only knew the bitterness of
the agony I feel at seeing this fine vessel doomed to be devoured by flames,
and at being so powerless to save her." Then quickly recovering himself, he
continued: "But I am forgetting myself; you, if no other, must know what I
am suffering. It is all over now," he said more cheerfully.
"Is our condition quite desperate?" I asked.
"It is just this," he answered deliberately, "we are over a mine, and
already the match has been applied to the train. How long that train may be,
'tis not for me to say."
And with these words he left me.
The other passengers, in common with the crew, are still in entire
ignorance of the extremity of peril to which we are exposed, although they
are all aware that there is fire in the hold. As soon as the fact was
announced, Mr. Kear, after communicating to Curtis his instructions that he
thought he should have the fire immediately extinguished, and intimating
that he held him responsible for all contingencies that might happen, retired
to his cabin, where he has remained ever since, fully occupied in collecting
and packing together the more cherished articles of his property and without
the semblance of a care or a thought for his unfortunate wife, whose
condition, in spite of her ludicrous complaints, was truly pitiable. Miss
Herbey, however, is unrelaxing in her attentions, and the unremitted
diligence with which she fulfills her offices of duty, commands my highest
OCTOBER 23. — This morning, Captain Huntly sent for Curtis into his
cabin, and the mate has since made me acquainted with what passed between
"Curtis," began the captain, his haggard eye betraying only too plainly
some mental derangement, "I am a sailor, am I not?"
"Certainly, captain," was the prompt acquiescence of the mate.
"I do not know how it is," continued the captain, "but I seem
bewildered; I can not recollect anything. Are we not bound for Liverpool? Ah!
yes! of course. And have we kept a northeasterly direction since we
"No, sir, according to your orders we have been sailing southeast, and
here we are in the tropics."
"And what is the name of the ship?"
"The Chancellor, sir."
"Yes, yes, the Chancellor, so it is. Well, Curtis, I really can't take
her back to the north. I hate the sea, the very sight of it makes me ill, I
would much rather not leave my cabin."
Curtis went on to tell me how he had tried to persuade him that with a
little time and care he would soon recover his indisposition, and feel
himself again; but the captain had interrupted him by saying:
"Well, well; we shall see by-and-by; but for the present you must take
this for my positive order; you must, from this time, at once take the
command of the ship, and act just as if I were not on board. Under present
circumstances, I can do nothing. My brain is all in a whirl, you can not
tell what I am suffering;" and the unfortunate man pressed both his hands
convulsively against his forehead.
"I weighed the matter carefully for a moment," added Curtis, "and seeing
what his condition too truly was, I acquiesced in all that he required and
withdrew, promising him that all his orders should be obeyed."
After hearing these particulars, I could not help remarking how
fortunate it was that the captain had resigned of his own accord, for
although he might not be actually insane, it was very evident that his
brain was in a very morbid condition.
"I succeeded him at a very critical moment," said Curtis thoughtfully;
"but I shall endeavor to do my duty."
A short time afterward he sent for his boatswain and ordered him to
assemble the crew at the foot of the main-mast. As soon as the men were
together, he addressed them very calmly, but very firmly.
"My men," he said, "I have to tell you that Captain Huntly, on account
of the dangerous situation in which circumstances have placed us, and for
other reasons known to myself, has thought right to resign his command to
me. From this time forward, I am captain of this vessel."
Thus quietly and simply was the change effected, and we have the
satisfaction of knowing that the Chancellor is now under the command of a
conscientious, energetic man, who will shirk nothing that he believes to be
for our common good. M. Letourneur, Andre, Mr. Falsten, and myself
immediately offered him our best wishes, in which Lieutenant Walter and
the boatswain most cordially joined.
The ship still holds her course southwest, and Curtis crowds on all sail
and makes as speedily as possible for the nearest of the Lesser
BETWEEN FIRE AND WATER
OCTOBER 24 to 29. — For the last five days the sea has been very heavy,
and although the Chancellor sails with wind and wave in her favor, yet her
progress is considerably impeded. Here on board this veritable fire-ship I
cannot help contemplating with a longing eye this vast ocean that
surrounds us. The water supply should be all we need.
"Why not bore the deck?" I said to Curtis. "Why not admit the water by
tons into the hold? What could be the harm? The fire would be quenched; and
what would be easier than to pump the water out again?"
"I have already told you, Mr. Kazallon," said Curtis, "that the very
moment we admit the air, the flames will rush forth to the very top of the
masts. No; we must have courage and patience; we must wait. There is
nothing whatever to be done, except to close every aperture."
The fire continued to progress even more rapidly than we had hitherto
suspected. The heat gradually drove the passengers nearly all on deck, and
the two stern cabins, lighted, as I said, by their windows in the aft-board
were the only quarters below that were inhabitable. Of these Mrs.
Kear occupied one, and Curtis reserved the other for Ruby, who, a raving
maniac, had to be kept rigidly under restraint. I went down occasionally to
see him, but invariably found him in a state of abject terror, uttering
horrible shrieks, as though possessed with the idea that he was being
scorched by the most excruciating heat.
Once or twice, too, I looked in upon the ex-captain. He was always calm
and spoke quite rationally on any subject except his own profession; but in
connection with that he prated away the merest nonsense. He suffered greatly,
but steadily declined all my offers of attention, and pertinaciously
refused to leave his cabin.
To-day, an acrid, nauseating smoke made its way through the panelings
that partition off the quarters of the crew. At once Curtis ordered the
partition to be enveloped in wet tarpaulin, but the fumes penetrated even
this, and filled the whole neighborhood of the ship's bows with a reeking
vapor that was positively stifling. As we listened, too, we could hear a
dull rumbling sound, but we were as mystified as ever to comprehend where the
air could have entered that was evidently fanning the flames. Only too
certainly, it was now becoming a question not of days nor even of
hours before we must be prepared for the final catastrophe. The sea was
still running high, and escape by the boats was plainly impossible.
Fortunately, as I have said, the main-mast and the mizzen are of iron;
otherwise the great heat at their base would long ago have brought them down
and our chances of safety would have been very much imperiled; but by
crowding on sail the Chancellor in the full northeast wind continued to make
her way with undiminished speed.
It is now a fortnight since the fire was first discovered, and the
proper working of the ship has gradually become a more and more difficult
matter. Even with thick shoes any attempt to walk upon deck up to the
forecastle was soon impracticable, and the poop, simply because its floor
is elevated somewhat above the level of the hold, is now the only
available standing-place. Water began to lose its effect upon the
scorched and shriveling planks; the resin oozed out from the knots in the
wood, the seams burst open, and the tar, melted by the heat, followed the
rollings of the vessel, and formed fantastic patterns about the deck.
Then to complete our perplexity, the wind shifted suddenly round to
the northwest, whence it blew a perfect hurricane. To no purpose did Curtis
do everything in his power to bring the ship ahull; every effort was in vain;
the Chancellor could not bear her trysail, so there was nothing to be done
but to let her go with the wind, and drift further and further from the land
for which we are longing so eagerly.
To-day, the 29th, the tempest seemed to reach its height; the waves
appeared to us mountains high, and dashed the spray most violently across the
deck. A boat could not live a moment in such a sea.
Our situation is terrible. We all wait in silence, some few on the
forecastle, the great proportion of us on the poop. As for the picrate, for
the time we have quite forgotten its existence; indeed it might almost seem
as though its explosion would come as a relief, for no catastrophe,
however terrible, could far exceed the torture of our suspense.
While he had still the remaining chance, Curtis rescued from the
store-room such few provisions as the heat of the compartment allowed him to
obtain; and a lot of cases of salt meat and biscuits, a cask of brandy, some
barrels of fresh water, together with some sails and wraps, a compass and
other instruments are now lying packed in a mass all ready for prompt removal
to the boats whenever we shall be obliged to leave the ship.
About eight o'clock in the evening, a noise is heard, distinct even
above the raging of the hurricane. The panels of the deck are upheaved, and
volumes of black smoke issue upward as if from a safety-valve. A universal
consternation seizes one and all; we must leave the volcano which is
about to burst beneath our feet. The crew run to Curtis for orders. He
hesitates; looks first at the huge and threatening waves; looks then at the
boats. The long-boat is there, suspended right along the center of the
deck; but it is impossible to approach it now; the yawl, however, hoisted
on the starboard side, and the whale-boat suspended aft, are
still available. The sailors make frantically for the yawl.
"Stop, stop," shouts Curtis; "do you mean to cut off our last and only
chance of safety? Would you launch a boat in such a sea as this?"
A few of them, with Owen at their head, give no heed to what he says.
Rushing to the poop, and seizing a cutlass, Curtis shouts again:
"Touch the tackling of the davit, one of you; only touch it, and I'll
cleave your skull."
Awed by his determined manner, the men retire, some clambering into the
shrouds, while others mount to the very top of the masts.
At eleven o'clock, several loud reports are heard, caused by the
bursting asunder of the partitions of the hold. Clouds of smoke issue from
the front, followed by a long tongue of lambent flame that seems to encircle
the mizzen-mast. The fire now reaches to the cabin of Mrs. Kear, who,
shrieking wildly, is brought on deck by Miss Herbey. A moment more, and
Silas Huntly makes his appearance, his face all blackened with the grimy
smoke; he bows to Curtis, as he passes, and then proceeds in the calmest
manner to mount the aft-shrouds, and installs himself at the very top of
The sight of Huntly recalls to my recollection the prisoner still below,
and my first impulse is to rush to the staircase and do what I can to set him
free. But the maniac has already eluded his confinement, and with singed
hair and his clothes already alight, rushes upon deck. Like a salamander
he passes across the burning deck with unscathed feet, and glides through the
stifling smoke with unchoked breath. Not a sound escapes his lips.
Another loud report; the long-boat is shivered into fragments; the
middle panel bursts the tarpaulin that covered it, and a stream of fire, free
at length from the restraint that had held it, rises half-mast high.
"The picrate! the picrate!" shrieks the madman; "we shall all be blown
up! the picrate will blow us all up."
And in an instant, before we can get near him, he has buried himself,
through the open hatchway, down into the fiery furnace below.
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 toward 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 suspended 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 enormous
wave which, recoiling with resistless violence, dashed it to atoms against
the Chancellor's side.
The men stood aghast; they were dumbfounded. Longboat 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 senseless on
one of the hen-coops, with Miss Herbey sitting passively 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, because 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 finding he had
nothing more to say, I repeated that it was all over now.
After a pause, he said, "As long as a plank of the ship remains to stand
on, Mr. Kazallon, I shall not give up my hope."
But the conflagration raged with redoubled fury, the sea around us was
lighted with a crimson glow, and the clouds above shone with a lurid glare.
Long jets of fire darted across the hatchways, and we were forced to take
refuge on the taffrail at the extreme end of the poop. Mrs. Kear was laid
in the whale-boat that hung from the stern. Miss Herbey persisting to the
last in retaining her post by her side.
No pen could adequately portray the horrors of this fearful night. The
Chancellor under bare poles, was driven, like a gigantic fire-ship with
frightful velocity across the raging ocean; her very speed as it were, making
common cause with the hurricane to fan the fire that was consuming her.
Soon there could be no alternative between throwing ourselves into the sea,
or perishing in the flames.
But where, all this time, was the picrate? Perhaps, after all, Ruby had
deceived us and there was no volcano, such as we dreaded, below our
At half-past eleven, when the tempest seems at its very height, there is
heard a peculiar roar distinguishable even above the crash of the elements.
The sailors in an instant recognize its import.
"Breakers to starboard!" is the cry.
Curtis leaps on to the netting, casts a rapid glance at the snow-white
billows, and turning to the helmsman shouts with all his might, "Starboard
But it is too late. There is a sudden shock; the ship is caught up by an
enormous wave; she rises upon her beam ends; several times she strikes the
ground; the mizzen-mast snaps short off level with the deck, falls into the
sea, and the Chancellor is motionless.
THE night of the 29th continued. — It was not yet midnight; the
darkness was most profound, and we could see nothing. But was it probable
that we had stranded on the coast of America?
Very shortly after the ship had thus come to a stand-still a clanking of
chains was heard proceeding from her bows.
"That is well," said Curtis; "Walter and the boatswain have cast both
the anchors. Let us hope they will hold."
Then, clinging to the netting, he clambered along the starboard side, on
which the ship had heeled, as far as the flames would allow him. He clung to
the holdfasts of the shrouds, and in spite of the heavy seas that dashed
against the vessel he maintained his position for a considerable
time, evidently listening to some sound that had caught his ear in the
midst of the tempest. In about a quarter of an hour he returned to the
"Heaven be praised! " he said, "the water is coming in, and perhaps may
get the better of the fire."
"True," said I, "but what then?"
"That," he replied, "is a question for bye-and-bye. We can think now
only of the present."
Already I fancied that the violence of the flames was somewhat abated,
and that the two opposing elements were in fierce contention. Some plank in
the ship's side was evidently stove in, admitting free passage for the
waves. But how, when the water had mastered the fire, should we be able to
master the water? Our natural course would be to use the pumps, but these, in
the very midst of the conflagration, were quite unavailable.
For three long hours, in anxious suspense, we watched, and waited. Where
we were we could not tell. One thing alone was certain; the tide was ebbing
beneath us, and the waves were relaxing in their violence. Once let the fire
be extinguished, and then, perhaps, there would be room to hope that the
next high tide would set us afloat.
Toward half-past four in the morning the curtain of fire and smoke,
which had shut off communication between the two extremities of the ship,
became less dense, and we could faintly distinguish that party of the crew
who had taken refuge in the forecastle; and before long, although it
was impracticable to step upon the deck, the lieutenant and the boatswain
contrived to clamber over the gunwale, along the rails, and joined Curtis on
Here they held a consultation, to which I was admitted. They were all of
opinion that nothing could be done until daylight should give us something of
an idea of our actual position. If we then found that we were near the
shore, we would, weather permitting, endeavor to land, either in the boat
or upon a raft. If, on the other hand, no land were in sight, and the
Chancellor were ascertained to be stranded on some isolated reef, all we
could do would be to get her afloat, and put her into condition for reaching
the nearest coast. Curtis told us that it was long since he had been able
to take any observation of latitude, but there was no doubt the northwest
wind had driven us far to the south; and he thought, as he was ignorant of
the existence of any reef in this part of the Atlantic, that it was just
possible that we had been driven on to the coast of some portion of South
I reminded him that we were in momentary expectation of an explosion,
and suggested that it would be advisable to abandon the ship and take refuge
on the reef. But he would not hear of such a proceeding, said that the
reef would probably be covered at high tide, and persisted in the original
resolution, that no decided action could be taken before the daylight
I immediately reported this decision of the captain to
my fellow-passengers. None of them seemed to realize the new danger to
which the Chancellor may be exposed by being cast upon an unknown reef,
hundreds of miles it may be from land. All are for the time possessed with
one idea, one hope; and that is, that the fire may now be quenched and the
And certainly their hopes seem in a fair way of being fulfilled.
Already the raging flames that poured forth from the hatches have given place
to dense black smoke, and although occasionally some fiery streaks dart
across the dusky fumes, yet they are instantly extinguished. The waves
are doing what pumps and buckets could never have effected; by their
inundation they are steadily stifling the fire which was as steadily
spreading to the whole bulk of the 1,700 bales of cotton.
SILAS HUNTLY RESCUED FROM THE WAVES
OCTOBER 30. — At the first gleam of daylight we eagerly scanned the
southern and western horizons, but the morning mists limited our view. Land
was nowhere to be seen. The tide was now almost at its lowest ebb, and the
color of the few peaks of rock that jutted up around us showed that the
reef on which we had stranded was of basaltic formation. There were now only
about six feet of water around the Chancellor, though with a full freight she
draws about fifteen. It was remarkable how far she had been carried on to
the shelf of rock, but the number of times that she had touched the bottom
before she finally ran aground left us no doubt that she had been lifted up
and borne along on the top of an enormous wave. She now lies with
her stern considerably higher than her bows, a position which renders
walking upon the deck anything but an easy matter, moreover as the tide
receded she heeled over so much to larboard that at one time Curtis feared
she would altogether capsize; that fear, however, since the tide has reached
its lowest mark, has happily proved groundless.
At six o'clock some violent blows were felt against the ship's side, and
at the same time a voice was distinguished, shouting loudly, "Curtis!
Curtis!" Following the direction of the cries we saw that the broken
mizzen-mast was being washed against the vessel, and in the dusky
morning twilight we could make out the figure of a man clinging to the
rigging. Curtis, at the peril of his life, hastened to bring the man on
board. It proved to be none other than Silas Huntly, who, after being carried
overboard with the mast, had thus, almost by a miracle, escaped a watery
grave. Without a word of thanks to his deliverer, the ex-captain, passive,
like an automaton, passed on and took his seat in the most secluded corner of
the poop. The broken mizzen may, perhaps, be of service to us at some future
time, and with that idea it has been rescued from the waves and
lashed securely to the stern.
By this time it was light enough to see for a distance of three miles
round; but as yet nothing could be discerned to make us think that we were
near a coast. The line of breakers ran for about a mile from southwest to
northeast, and two hundred fathoms to the north of the ship an irregular
mass of rocks formed a small islet. This islet rose about fifty feet above
the sea, and was consequently above the level of the highest tides; while a
sort of causeway, available at low water, would enable us to reach the
island, if necessity required. But there the reef ended; beyond it the sea
again resumed its somber hue, betokening deep water. In all probability,
then, this was a solitary shoal, unattached to a shore, and the gloom of a
bitter disappointment began to weigh upon our spirits.
In another hour the mists had totally disappeared, and it was broad
daylight. I and M. Letourneur stood watching Curtis as he continued eagerly
to scan the western horizon. Astonishment was written on his countenance; to
him it appeared perfectly incredible that, after our course for so long
had been due south from the Bermudas, no land should be in sight. But not a
speck, however minute, broke the clearly-defined line that joined sea and
sky. After a time Curtis made his way along the netting to the shrouds,
and swung himself quickly up to the top of the mainmast. For several
minutes he remained there examining the open space around, then seizing one
of the backstays he glided down and rejoined us on the poop.
"No land in sight," he said, in answer to our eager looks.
At this point Mr. Kear interposed, and in a gruff, illtempered tone,
asked Curtis where we were. Curtis replied that he did not know.
"You don't know, sir? Then all I can say is that you ought to know!"
exclaimed the petroleum merchant.
"That may be, sir; but at present I am as ignorant of our whereabouts as
you are yourself," said Curtis.
"Well," said Mr. Kear, "just please to know that I don't want to stay
forever on your everlasting ship, so I beg you will make haste and start off
Curtis condescended to make no other reply than a shrug of the
shoulders, and turning away he informed M. Letourneur and myself that if
the sun came out he intended to take its altitude and find out to what part
of the ocean we had been driven.
His next care was to distribute preserved meat and biscuit among the
passengers and crew already half fainting with hunger and fatigue, and then
he set to work to devise measures for setting the ship afloat.
The conflagration was greatly abated; no flames now appeared, and
although some black smoke still issued from the interior, yet its volume was
far less than before. The first step was to discover how much water had
entered the hold. The deck was still too hot to walk upon; but after two
hours' irrigation the boards became sufficiently cool for the boatswain to
proceed to take some soundings, and he shortly afterward announced that there
were five feet of water below. This the captain determined should not
be pumped out at present, as he wanted it thoroughly to do its duty before
he got rid of it.
The next subject for consideration was whether it would be advisable to
abandon the vessel, and to take refuge on the reef. Curtis thought not; and
the lieutenant and the boatswain agreed with him. The chances of an
explosion were greatly diminished, as it had been ascertained that
the water had reached that part of the hold in which Ruby's luggage had
been deposited; while, on the other hand, in the event of rough weather, our
position even upon the most elevated points of rock might be very critical.
It was accordingly resolved that both passengers and crew were safest
Acting upon this decision we proceeded to make a kind of encampment on
the poop, and a few mattresses that were rescued uninjured have been given up
for the use of the two ladies. Such of the crew as had saved their
hammocks have been told to place them under the forecastle where
they would have to stow themselves as best they could, their ordinary
quarters being absolutely uninhabitable.
Fortunately, although the store-room has been considerably exposed to
the heat, its contents are not very seriously damaged, and all the barrels of
water and the greater part of the provisions are quite intact. The stock of
spare sails, which had been packed away in front, is also free from
injury. The wind has dropped considerably since the early morning, and
the swell in the sea is far less heavy. On the whole our spirits are reviving
and we begin to think we may yet find a way out of our troubles.
M. Letourneur, his son, and I, have just had a long conversation about
the ship's officers. We consider their conduct, under the late trying
circumstances, to have been most exemplary, and their courage, energy, and
endurance to have been beyond all praise. Lieutenant Walter, the
boatswain, and Dowlas the carpenter have all alike
distinguished themselves, and made us feel that they are men to be
relied on. As for Curtis, words can scarcely be found to express our
admiration of his character; he is the same as he has ever been, the very
life of his crew, cheering them on by word or gesture; finding an expedient
for every difficulty, and always foremost in every action.
The tide turned at seven this morning, and by eleven all the rocks were
submerged, none of them being visible except the cluster of those which
formed the rim of a small and almost circular basin from 230 to 300 feet in
diameter, in the north angle of which the ship is lying. As the tide rose
the white breakers disappeared, and the sea, fortunately for the Chancellor,
was pretty calm; otherwise the dashing of the waves against her sides, as she
lies motionless, might have been attended by serious consequences.
As might be supposed, the height of the water in the hold increased with
the tide from five feet to nine; but this was rather a matter of
congratulation, inasmuch as it sufficed to inundate another layer of
At half-past eleven the sun, which had been behind the clouds since ten
o'clock, broke forth brightly. The captain, who had already in the morning
been able to calculate an horary angle, now prepared to take the meridian
altitude, and succeeded at midday in making his observation
most satisfactorily. After retiring for a short time to calculate the
result, he returned to the poop and announced that we are in lat. 18 deg. 5'
N. and long. 45 deg. 53' W., but that the reef on which we are aground is not
marked on the charts. The only explanation that can be given for the omission
is that the islet must be of recent formation, and has been caused by some
subterranean volcanic disturbance. But whatever may be the solution of the
mystery, here we are 800 miles from land; for such, on consulting the map, we
find to be the actual distance to the coast of Guiana, which is the
nearest shore. Such is the position to which we have been brought, in
the first place, by Huntly's senseless obstinacy, and, secondly, by the
furious northwest gale.
Yet, after all, the captain's communication does not dishearten us. As
I said before, our spirits are reviving. We have escaped the peril of fire;
the fear of explosion is past and gone: and oblivious of the fact that the
ship with a hold full of water is only too likely to founder when she puts
out to sea, we feel a confidence in the future that forbids us to
Meanwhile Curtis prepares to do all that common sense demands. He
proposes, when the fire is quite extinguished, to throw overboard the whole,
or the greater portion of the cargo, including, of course, the picrate; he
will next plug up the leak, and then, with a lightened ship, he will take
advantage of the first high tide to quit the reef as speedily
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 predicament; but he could not be brought to take a
very sanguine view of our prospects.
"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
"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,
unless 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 expect 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
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
"Perfect confidence," he answered; "and I acknowledge it most
gratefully, as a providential circumstance, that Captain Huntly had given
him the command in time. Whatever man can do I know that Curtis will not
leave undone to extricate us from our dilemma."
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 remain upon the reef; but he merely replied, that
it must depend 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 moisture
descending from above and that ascending from below. This scheme has brought
the pumps once more into requisition. At present the crew are adequate to
the task of working them, but I and some of our fellow-passengers are
ready to offer our assistance whenever it shall be necessary.
With no immediate demand upon our labor, we are thrown upon our own
resources for passing our time. M. Letourneur, Andre, and myself, have
frequent conversations; I also devote an hour or two to my diary.
Falsten holds little communication with any of us, but remains absorbed
in his calculations, and amuses himself by tracing mechanical diagrams with
ground-plan, section, elevation, all complete. It would be a happy
inspiration if he could invent some mighty engine that could set us all
afloat again. Mr. and Mrs. Kear, too, hold themselves aloof from
their fellow-passengers, and we are not sorry to be relieved from the
necessity of listening to their incessant grumbling; unfortunately,
however, they carry off Miss Herbey with them, so that we enjoy little or
nothing of the young lady's society. As for Silas Huntly, he has become a
complete nonentity; he exists, it is true, but merely, it would seem,
Hobart, the steward, an obsequious, sly sort of fellow, goes through his
routine of duties just as though the vessel were pursuing her ordinary
course; and, as usual, is continually falling out with Jynxstrop, the cook,
an impudent, ill-favored negro, who interferes with the other sailors in a
manner which, I think, ought not to be allowed.
Since it appears likely that we shall have abundance of time on our
hands, I have proposed to M. Letourneur and his son that we shall together
explore the reef on which we are stranded. It is not very probable that we
shall be able to discover much about the origin of this strange
accumulation of rocks, yet the attempt will at least occupy us for some
hours, and will relieve us from the monotony of our confinement on board.
Besides, as the reef is not marked in any of the maps, I could not but
believe that it would be rendering a service to hydrography if we were to
take an accurate plan of the rocks, of which Curtis could afterward verify
the true position by a second observation made with a closer precision than
the one he has already taken.
M. Letourneur agrees to my proposal, Curtis has promised to let us have
the boat and some sounding-lines, and to allow one of the sailors to
accompany us; so to-morrow morning, we hope to make our little voyage of
WE EXPLORE THE REEF
OCTOBER 31 to November 5. — Our first proceeding on the morning of the
31st was to make the proposed tour of the reef, which is about a quarter of a
mile long. With the aid of our sounding-lines we found that the water
was deep, right up to the very rocks, and that no shelving
shores prevented us coasting along them. There was not a shadow of doubt
as to the rock being of purely volcanic origin, upheaved by some mighty
subterranean convulsion. It is formed of blocks of basalt,
arranged in perfect order, of which the regular prisms give the whole mass
the effect of being one gigantic crystal; and the remarkable
transparency of the sea enabled us plainly to observe the curious
shafts of the prismatic columns that support the marvelous
"This is indeed a singular island," said M. Letourneur; "evidently it is
of quite recent origin."
"Yes, father," said Andre, "and I should think it has been caused by a
phenomenon similar to those which produced the Julia Island, off the coast
of Sicily, or the group of the Santorini, in the Grecian Archipelago. One
could almost fancy that it had been created expressly for the Chancellor
to strand upon."
"It is very certain," I observed, "that some upheaving has lately taken
place. This is by no means an unfrequented part of the Atlantic, so that it
is not at all likely that it could have escaped the notice of sailors if it
had been always in existence; yet it is not marked even in the most
modern charts. We must try and explore it thoroughly and give future
navigators the benefit of our observations."
"But, perhaps, it will disappear as it came," said Andre. "You are no
doubt aware, Mr. Kazallon, that these volcanic islands sometimes have a very
transitory existence. Not impossibly, by the time it gets marked upon the
maps it may no longer be here."
"Never mind, my boy," answered his father, "it is better to give
warning of a danger that does not exist than overlook one that does. I dare
say the sailors will not grumble much, if they don't find a reef where we
have marked one."
"No, I dare say not, father," said Andre, "and after all this island is
very likely as firm as a continent. However, if it is to disappear, I expect
Captain Curtis would be glad to see it take its departure as soon as possible
after he has finished his repairs; it would save him a world of trouble in
getting his ship afloat."
"Why, what a fellow you are, Andre!" I said, laughing; "I believe you
would like to rule Nature with a magic wand, first of all, you would call up
a reef from the depth of the ocean to give the Chancellor time to extinguish
her flames, and then you would make it disappear just that the ship might
be free again."
Andre smiled; then, in a more serious tone, he expressed his gratitude
for the timely help that had been vouchsafed us in our hour of need.
The more we examined the rocks that formed the base of the little
island, the more we became convinced that its formation was quite recent. Not
a mollusk, not a tuft of seaweed was found clinging to the sides of the
rocks; not a germ had the wind carried to its surface, not a bird
had taken refuge amid the crags upon its summits. To a lover of natural
history, the spot did not yield a single point of interest; the geologist
alone would find subject of study in the basaltic mass.
When we reached the southern point of the island I proposed that we
should disembark. My companions readily assented, young Letourneur jocosely
observing that if the little island was destined to vanish, it was quite
right that it should first be visited by human beings. The boat
was accordingly brought alongside, and we set foot upon the reef, and
began to ascend the gradual slope that leads to its highest elevation.
The walking was not very rough, and as Andre could get along tolerably
well without the assistance of an arm, he led the way, his father and I
following close behind. A quarter of an hour sufficed to bring us to the
loftiest point in the islet, when we seated ourselves on the basaltic
prism that crowned its summit.
Andre took a sketch-book from his pocket, and proceeded to make a
drawing of the reef. Scarcely had he completed the outline when his father
"Why, Andre, you have drawn a ham!"
"Something uncommonly like it, I confess," replied Andre. "I think we
had better ask Captain Curtis to let us call our island Ham Rock."
"Good," said I; "though sailors will need to keep it at a respectful
distance, for they will scarcely find that their teeth are strong enough to
M. Letourneur was quite correct; the outline of the reef as it stood
clearly defined against the deep green water resembled nothing so much as a
fine York ham, of which the little creek, where the Chancellor had been
stranded, corresponded to the hollow place above the knuckle. The tide at
this time was low, and the ship now lay heeled over very much to the
starboard side, the few points of rock that emerged in the extreme south of
the reef plainly marking the narrow passage through which she had been forced
before she finally ran aground.
As soon as Andre had finished his sketch we descended by a slope as
gradual as that by which we had come up, and made our way toward the west. We
had not gone very far when a beautiful grotto, perfect as an architectural
structure, arrested our attention. M. Letourneur and Andre, who have
visited the Hebrides, pronounced it to be a Fingal's cave in miniature; a
Gothic chapel that might form a fit vestibule for the cathedral cave of
Staffa. The basaltic rocks had cooled down into the same regular
concentric prisms; there was the same dark canopied roof with its
interstices filled up with its yellow lutings; the same precision of
outline in the prismatic angles, sharp as though chiseled by a sculptor's
hand; the same sonorous vibration of the air across the basaltic rocks, of
which the Gaelic poets have feigned that the harps of the Fingal minstrelsy
were made. But whereas at Staffa the floor of the cave is always
covered with a sheet of water, here the grotto was beyond the reach of all
but the highest waves, while the prismatic shafts themselves formed quite a
After remaining nearly an hour in our newly-discovered grotto we
returned to the Chancellor, and communicated the result of our explorations
to Curtis, who entered the island upon his chart, by the name Andre
Letourneur had proposed.
Since its discovery we have not permitted a day to pass without spending
some time in our Ham Rock grotto. Curtis has taken an opportunity of visiting
it, but he is too preoccupied with other matters to have much interest
to spare for the wonders of nature. Falsten, too, came once and examined
the character of the rocks, knocking and chipping them about with all the
mercilessness of a geologist. Mr. Kear would not trouble himself to leave the
ship; and although I asked his wife to join us in one of our
excursions she declined, upon the plea that the fatigue, as well as
the inconvenience of embarking in the boat, would be more than she could
Miss Herbey, only to thankful to escape even for an hour from her
capricious mistress, eagerly accepted M. Letourneur's invitation to pay a
visit to the reef, but to her great disappointment Mrs. Kear at first refused
point-blank to allow her to leave the ship. I felt intensely annoyed, and
resolved to intercede in Miss Herbey's favor; and as I had already
rendered that self-indulgent lady sundry services which she though she might
probably be glad again to accept, I gained my point, and Miss Herbey has
several times been permitted to accompany us across the rocks, where the
young girl's delight at her freedom has been a pleasure to behold.
Sometimes we fish along the shore, and then enjoy a luncheon in the
grotto, while the basalt columns vibrate like harps to the breeze. This arid
reef, little as it is, compared with the cramped limits of the Chancellor's
deck is like some vast domain; soon there will be scarcely a stone with
which we are not familiar, scarcely a portion of its surface which we have
not trodden, and I am sure that when the hour of departure arrives we shall
leave it with regret.
In the course of conversation, Andre Letourneur one day happened to say
that he believed the island of Staffa belonged to the Macdonald family, who
let it for the small sum of L.12 a year.
"I suppose then," said Miss Herbey, "that we should hardly get more than
half-a-crown a year for our pet little island."
"I don't think you would get a penny for it. Miss Herbey; but are you
thinking of taking a lease?" I said laughing.
"Not at present," she said; then added, with a half-suppressed sigh,
"and yet it is a place where I have seemed to know what it is to be really
Andre murmured some expression of assent, and we all felt that there was
something touching in the words of the orphaned, friendless girl who had
found her long-lost sense of happiness on a lonely rock in the
THE CARGO UNLOADED
NOVEMBER 6 to November 15. — For the first five days after the
Chancellor had run aground, there was a dense black smoke continually rising
from the hold; but it gradually diminished until the 6th of November, when
we might consider that the fire was extinguished. Curtis, nevertheless,
deemed it prudent to persevere in working the pumps, which he did until the
entire hull of the ship, right up to the deck, had been completely
The rapidity, however, with which the water, at every retreat of the
tide, drained off to the level of the sea, was an indication that the leak
must be of considerable magnitude; and such, on investigation, proved to be
the case. One of the sailors, named Flaypole, dived one day at low water to
examine the extent of the damage, and found that the hole was not much
less than four feet square, and was situated thirty feet fore of the helm,
and two feet above the rider of the keel; three planks had been stove in by a
sharp point of rock and it was only a wonder that the violence with which
the heavily-laden vessel had been thrown ashore did not result in the
smashing in of many parts beside.
As it would be a couple of days or more before the hold would be in a
condition for the bales of cotton to be removed for the carpenter to examine
the damage from the interior of the ship, Curtis employed the interval in
having the broken mizzen-mast repaired. Dowlas the carpenter, with
considerable skill, contrived to mortise it into its former stump. and
made the junction thoroughly secure by strong ironbelts and bolts. The
shrouds, the stays and backstays, were then carefully refitted, some of the
sails were changed, and the whole of the running rigging was renewed. Injury,
to some extent, had been done to the poop and to the crew's lockers in the
front; but time and labor were all that were wanted to make them good; and
with such a will did everybody set to work that it was not long before all
the cabins were again available for use.
On the 8th the unlading of the ship commenced. Pulleys and tackling were
put over the hatches, and passengers and crew together proceeded to haul up
the heavy bales which had been deluged so frequently by water that the cotton
was all but spoiled. One by one the sodden bales were placed in the boat
to be transported to the reef. After the first layer of cotton had been
removed it became necessary to drain off part of the water that filled the
hold. For this purpose the leak in the side had somehow or other to be
stopped, and this was an operation which was cleverly accomplished
by Dowlas and Flaypole, who contrived to dive at low tide and nail a sheet
of copper over the entire hole. This, however, of itself would have been
utterly inadequate to sustain the pressure that would arise from the action
of the pumps; so Curtis ordered that a number of the bales should be
piled up inside against the broken planks. The scheme succeeded very well,
and as the water got lower and lower in the hold the men were enabled to
resume their task of unlading.
Curtis thinks it quite probable that the leaks may be mended from the
interior. By far the best way of repairing the damage would be to careen the
ship, and to shift the planking, but the appliances are wanting for such an
undertaking; moreover, any bad weather which might occur while the ship
was on her flank would only too certainly be fatal to her altogether. But the
captain has very little doubt that by some device or other he shall manage to
patch up the hole in such a way as will insure our reaching land in
After two days' toil the water was entirely reduced, and without further
difficulty the unlading was completed. All of us, including even Andre
Letourneur, have been taking our turn at the pumps, for the work is so
extremely fatiguing that the crew require some occasional respite; arms and
back soon become strained and weary with the incessant swing of the
handles, and I can well understand the dislike which sailors always express
to the labor.
One thing there is which is much in our favor; the ship lies on a firm
and solid bottom, and we have the satisfaction of knowing that we are not
contending with a flood that encroaches faster than it can be resisted.
Heaven grant that we may not be called to make like efforts, and to make
them hopelessly, for a foundering ship!
EXAMINATION OF THE HOLD
NOVEMBER 15 to 20. — The examination of the hold has at last been made.
Among the first things that were found was the case of picrate, perfectly
intact, having neither been injured by the water, nor of course reached by
the flames. Why it was not at once pitched into the sea I cannot say; but
it was merely conveyed to the extremity of the island, and there it
While they were below, Curtis and Dowlas made themselves acquainted
with the full extent of the mischief that had been done by the conflagration.
They found that the deck and the cross-beams that supported it had been
much less injured than they expected, and the thick, heavy planks had only
been scorched very superficially. But the action of the fire on the flanks of
the ship had been of a much more serious character; a long portion of the
inside boarding had been burned away, and the very ribs of the vessel were
considerably damaged; the oakum caulkings had all started away from the
butt-ends and seams; so much so that it was little short of a miracle that
the whole ship had not long since gaped completely open.
The captain and the carpenter returned to the deck with anxious faces.
Curtis lost no time in assembling passengers and crew, and announcing to
them the facts of the case.
"My friends," he said, "I am here to tell you that the Chancellor has
sustained far greater injuries than we suspected, and that her hull is very
seriously damaged. If we had been stranded anywhere else than on a barren
reef, that may at any time be overwhelmed by a tempestuous sea, I should
not have hesitated to take the ship to pieces, and construct a smaller
vessel that might have carried us safely to land; but I dare not run the risk
of remaining here. We are now 800 miles from the coast of Paramaribo, the
nearest portion of Dutch Guiana, and in ten or twelve days, if the weather
should be favorable, I believe we could reach the shore. What I now propose
to do is to stop the leak by the best means we can command, and make at once
for the nearest port."
As no better plan seemed to suggest itself, Curtis's proposal was
unanimously accepted. Dowlas and his assistants immediately set to work to
repair the charred frame-work of the ribs, and to stop the leak; they took
care thoroughly to calk from the outside all the seams that were above
low water mark; lower than that they were unable to work, and had to
content themselves with such repairs as they could effect in the interior.
But after all the pains there is no doubt the Chancellor is not fit for a
long voyage, and would be condemned as unseaworthy at any port at which we
might put in.
To-day the 20th, Curtis having done all that human power could do to
repair his ship, determined to put her to sea.
Ever since the Chancellor had been relieved of her cargo, and of the
water in her hold, she had been able to float in the little natural basin
into which she had been driven. The basin was enclosed on either hand by
rocks that remained uncovered even at high water, but was sufficiently wide
to allow the vessel to turn quite round at its broadest part, and by means
of hawsers fastened on the reef to be brought with her bows towards the
south; while, to prevent her being carried back on to the reef, she has been
anchored fore and aft.
To all appearance, then, it seemed as though it would be an easy matter
to put the Chancellor to sea; if the wind were favorable the sails would be
hoisted; if otherwise, she would have to be towed through the narrow passage.
All seemed simple. But unlooked-for difficulties had yet to
The mouth of the passage is guarded by a kind of ridge of basalt, which
at high tide we knew was barely covered with sufficient water to float the
Chancellor, even when entirely unfreighted. To be sure she had been carried
over the obstacle once before, but then, as I have already said, she had
been caught up by an enormous wave, and might have been said to be LIFTED
over the barrier into her present position. Besides, on that ever memorable
night, there had not only been the ordinary spring-tide, but an
equinoctial tide, such a one as could not be expected to occur again
for many months. Waiting was out of the question; so Curtis determined to
run the risk, and to take advantage of the spring-tide, which would occur
to-day, to make an attempt to get the ship, lightened as she was, over the
bar; after which, he might ballast her sufficiently to sail.
The wind was blowing from the northwest, and consequently right in the
direction of the passage. The captain, however, after a consultation,
preferred to tow the ship over the ridge, as he considered it was scarcely
safe to allow a vessel of doubtful stability at full sail to charge an
obstacle that would probably bring her to a dead lock. Before
the operation was commenced, Curtis took the precaution of having an
anchor ready in the stern, for, in the event of the attempt being
unsuccessful, it would be necessary to bring the ship back to her present
moorings. Two more anchors were next carried outside the passage, which was
not more than two hundred feet in length. The chains were attached to the
windlass, the sailors worked at the hand-spikes, and at four o'clock in the
afternoon the Chancellor was in motion.
High tide would be at twenty minutes past four, and at ten minutes
before that time the ship had been hauled as far as her sea-range would
allow; her keel grazed the ridge, and her progress was arrested. When the
lowest part of her stern, however, just cleared the obstruction, Curtis
deemed that there was no longer any reason why the mechanical action of
the wind should not be brought to bear and contribute its assistance.
Without delay, all sails were unfurled and trimmed to the wind. The tide was
exactly at its height, passengers and crew together were at the windlass,
M. Letourneur, Andre, Falsten, and myself being at the starboard bar.
Curtis stood upon the poop, giving his chief attention to the sails; the
lieutenant was on the forecastle; the boatswain by the helm. The sea seemed
propitiously calm and; as it swelled gently to and fro, lifted the
ship several times.
"Now, my boys," said Curtis, in his calm clear voice, "all together!
Round went the windlass; click, click, clanked the chains as link by
link they were forced through the hawse-holes.
The breeze freshened, and the masts gave to the pressure of the sails,
but round and round we went, keeping time in regular monotony to the
sing-song tune hummed by one of the sailors.
We had gained about twenty feet, and were redoubling our efforts when
the ship grounded again.
And now no effort would avail; all was in vain; the tide began to turn:
and the Chancellor would not advance an inch. Was there time to go back? She
would inevitably go to pieces if left balanced upon the ridge. In an instant
the captain has ordered the sails to be furled, and the anchor dropped
from the stern.
One moment of terrible anxiety, and all is well.
The Chancellor tacks to stern, and glides back into the basin, which is
once more her prison.
"Well, captain," says the boatswain, "what's to be done now?"
"I don't know," said Curtis, "but we shall get across somehow."
THE "CHANCELLOR" RELEASED FROM HER PRISON
NOVEMBER 21 TO 24. — There was assuredly no time to be lost before we
ought to leave Ham Rock reef. The barometer had been falling ever since the
morning, the sea was getting rougher, and there was every symptom that
the weather, hitherto so favorable, was on the point of breaking; and in
the event of a gale the Chancellor must inevitably be dashed to pieces on the
In the evening, when the tide was quite low, and the rocks uncovered,
Curtis, the boatswain, and Dowlas went to examine the ridge which had
proved so serious an obstruction. Falsten and I accompanied them. We came to
the conclusion that the only way of effecting a passage was by
cutting away the rocks with pikes over a surface measuring ten feet by
six. An extra depth of nine or ten inches would give a sufficient gauge, and
the channel might be accurately marked out by buoys; in this way it was
conjectured the ship might be got over the ridge and so reach the deep water
"But this basalt is as hard as granite," said the boatswain; "besides,
we can only get at it at low water, and consequently could only work at it
for two hours out of the twenty-four."
"All the more reason why we should begin at once, boatswain," said
"But if it is to take us a month, captain, perhaps by that time the ship
may be knocked to atoms. Couldn't we manage to blow up the rock? we have
got some powder aboard."
"Not enough for that," said the boatswain.
"You have something better than powder," said Falsten.
"What's that?" asked the captain.
"Picrate of potash," was the reply.
And so the explosive substance with which poor Ruby had so grievously
imperiled the vessel was now to serve her in good stead, and I now saw what a
lucky thing it was that the case had been deposited safely on the reef,
instead of being thrown into the sea.
The sailors went off at once for their pikes, and Dowlas and his
assistants, under the direction of Falsten, who, as an engineer, understood
such matters, proceeded to hollow out a mine wherein to deposit the powder.
At first we hoped that everything would be ready for the blasting to take
place on the following morning, but when daylight appeared we found that
the men, although they had labored with a will, had only been able to work
for an hour at low water and that four tides must ebb before the mine had
been sunk to the required depth.
Not until eight o'clock on the morning of the 23d was the work complete.
The hole was bored obliquely in the rock, and was large enough to contain
about ten pounds of explosive matter. Just as the picrate was being
introduced into the aperture, Falsten interposed:
"Stop," he said, "I think it will be best to mix the picrate with common
powder, as that will allow us to fire the mine with a match instead of the
gun-priming which would be necessary to produce a shock. Besides, it is an
understood thing that the addition of gunpowder renders picrate far more
effective in blasting such rocks as this, as then the violence of the picrate
prepares the way for the powder which, slower in its action, will complete
the disseverment of the basalt."
Falsten is not a great talker, but what he does say is always very
much to the point. His good advice was immediately followed; the two
substances were mixed together, and after a match had been introduced the
compound was rammed closely into the hole.
Notwithstanding that the Chancellor was at a distance from the rocks
that insured her from any danger of being injured by the explosion, it was
thought advisable that the passengers and crew should take refuge in the
grotto at the extremity of the reef, and even Mr. Kear, in spite of
his many objections, was forced to leave the ship. Falsten, as soon as he
had set fire to the match, joined us in our retreat.
The train was to burn for ten minutes, and at the end of that time the
explosion took place; the report, on account of the depth of the mine, being
muffled, and much less noisy than we had expected. But the operation had been
perfectly successful. Before we reached the ridge we could see that the
basalt had been literally reduced to powder, and that a little channel,
already being filled by the rising tide, had been cut right through the
obstacle. A loud hurrah rang through the air; our prison-doors were opened,
and we were prisoners no more.
At high tide the Chancellor weighed anchor and floated out into the sea,
but she was not in a condition to sail until she had been ballasted; and for
the next twenty-four hours the crew were busily employed in taking up blocks
of stone, and such of the bales of cotton as had sustained the
least amount of injury.
In the course of the day, M. Letourneur, Andre, Miss Herbey, and I took
a farewell walk round the reef, and Andre, with artistic skill, carved on the
wall of the grotto the word Chancellor — the designation of Ham Rock,
which we had given to the reef — and the date of our running aground.
Then we bade adieu to the scene of our three weeks' sojourn, where we had
passed days that to some at least of our party will be reckoned as far from
being the least happy of their lives.
At high tide this morning, the 24th, with low, top, and gallant sails
all set, the Chancellor started on her onward way, and two hours later the
last peak of Ham Rock had vanished below the horizon.
A NEW DANGER
NOVEMBER 24 to December1. — Here we were then once more at sea, and
although on board a ship of which the stability was very questionable, we had
hopes, if the wind continued favorable, of reaching the coast of Guiana in
the course of a few days.
Our way was southwest and consequently with the wind, and although
Curtis would not crowd on all sail lest the extra speed should have a
tendency to spring the leak afresh, the Chancellor made a progress that was
quite satisfactory. Life on board began to fall back into its former routine;
the feeling of insecurity and the consciousness that we were merely
retracing our path doing much, however, to destroy the animated intercourse
that would otherwise go on between passenger and passenger.
The first few days passed without any incident worth recording, then
on the 29th, the wind shifted to the north, and it became necessary to brace
the yards, trim the sails, and take a starboard tack. This made the ship
lurch very much on one side, and as Curtis felt that she was laboring far
too heavily, he clewed up the top-gallants, prudently reckoning that,
under the circumstances, caution was far more important than speed.
The night came on dark and foggy. The breeze freshened considerably,
and, unfortunately for us, hailed from the northwest. Although we carried no
topsails at all, the ship seemed to heel over more than ever. Most of the
passengers had retired to their cabins, but all the crew remained on
deck, while Curtis never quitted his post upon the poop.
Toward two o'clock in the morning I was myself preparing to go to my
cabin, when Burke, one of the sailors who had been down into the hold, came
on deck with the cry:
"Two feet of water below."
In an instant Curtis and the boatswain had descended the ladder. The
startling news was only too true; the sea-water was entering the hold, but
whether the leak had sprung afresh, or whether the caulking in some of the
seams was insufficient, it was then impossible to determine; all
that could be done was to let the ship go with the wind, and wait for
At daybreak they sounded again — "Three feet of water!" was the report.
I glanced at Curtis — his lips were white, but he had not lost his
self-possession. He quietly informed such of the passengers as were already
on deck of the new danger that threatened us; it was better that
they should know the worst, and the fact could not be long concealed. I
told M. Letourneur that I could not help hoping that there might yet be time
to reach the land before the last crisis came. Falsten was about to give vent
to an expression of despair, but he was soon silenced by Miss
Herbey asserting her confidence that all would yet be well.
Curtis at once divided the crew into two sets, and made them work
incessantly, turn and turn about, at the pumps. The men applied themselves to
their task with resignation rather than with ardor; the labor was hard and
scarcely repaid them; the pumps were constantly getting out of
order, the valves being choked up by the ashes and bits of cotton that
were floating about in the hold, while every moment that was spent in
cleaning or repairing them was so much time lost.
Slowly but surely the water continued to rise, and on the following
morning the soundings gave five feet for its depth. I noticed that Curtis's
brow contracted each time that the boatswain or the lieutenant brought him
their report. There was no doubt it was only a question of time, and not for
an instant must the efforts for keeping down the level be relaxed.
Already the ship had sunk a foot lower in the water, and as her weight
increased she no longer rose buoyantly with the waves, but pitched and rolled
All yesterday and last night the pumping continued, but still the sea
gained upon us. The crew are weary and discouraged, but the second officer
and the boatswain set them a fine example of endurance, and the passengers
have now begun to take their turn at the pumps.
But all are conscious of toiling almost against hope; we are no longer
secured firmly to the solid soil of the Ham Rock reef, but we are floating
over an abyss which daily, nay hourly, threatens to swallow us into its
AN ATTEMPT AT MUTINY
DECEMBER 2 and 3. — For four hours we have succeeded in keeping the
water in the hold to one level; now, however, it is very evident that the
time cannot be far distant when the pumps will be quite unequal to their
Yesterday Curtis, who does not allow himself a minute's rest, made a
personal inspection of the hold. I, with the boatswain and carpenter,
accompanied him. After dislodging some of the bales of cotton we could hear
a splashing, or rather gurgling sound; but whether the water was
entering at the original aperture, or whether it found its way
in through a general dislocation of the seams, we were unable to discover.
But, whichever might be the case, Curtis determined to try a plan which, by
cutting off communication between the interior and exterior of the vessel,
might, if only for a few hours, render her hull more water-tight. For
this purpose he had some strong, well tarred sails drawn upward by ropes
from below the keel, as high as the previous leaking place, and then
fastened closely and securely to the side of the hull. The scheme was
dubious, and the operation difficult, but for a time it was effectual, and at
the close of the day the level of the water had actually been reduced
by several inches. The diminution was small enough, but the consciousness
that more water was escaping through the scupper-holes than was finding its
way into the hold gave us fresh courage to persevere with our work.
The night was dark, but the captain carried all the sail he could, eager
to take every possible advantage of the wind, which was freshening
considerably. If he could have sighted a ship he would have made signals of
distress, and would not have hesitated to transfer the passengers,
and even have allowed the crew to follow, if they were ready to forsake
him; for himself his mind was made up — he should remain on board the
Chancellor until she foundered beneath his feet. No sail, however, hove in
sight; consequently escape by such means was out of our power.
During the night the canvas covering yielded to the pressure of the
waves, and this morning, after taking the sounding, the boatswain could not
suppress an oath when he announced, "Six feet of water in the hold!"
The ship, then, was filling once again, and already had sunk
considerably below her previous water-line. With aching arms and bleeding
hands we worked harder than ever at the pumps, and Curtis makes those who are
not pumping form a line and pass buckets, with all the speed they can,
from hand to hand.
But all in vain! At half-past eight more water is reported in the
hold, and some of the sailors, overcome by despair, refuse to work one
The first to abandon his post was Owen, a man whom I have mentioned
before as exhibiting something of a mutinous spirit. He is about forty
years of age, and altogether unprepossessing in appearance; his face is bare,
with the exception of a reddish beard, which terminates in a point; his
forehead is furrowed with sinister looking wrinkles, his lips curl inward,
and his ears protrude, while his bleared and bloodshot eyes are encircled
with thick red rings.
Among the five or six other men who had struck work I noticed Jynxstrop,
the cook, who evidently shared all Owen's ill-feelings.
Twice did Curtis order the men back to the pumps, and twice did Owen,
acting as spokesman for the rest, refuse; and when Curtis made a step forward
as though to approach him, he said savagely:
"I advise you not to touch me," and walked away to the forecastle.
Curtis descended to his cabin, and almost immediately returned with a
loaded revolver in his hand.
For a moment Owen surveyed the captain with a frown of defiance; but at
a sign from Jynxstrop he seemed to recollect himself, and, with the remainder
of the men, he returned to his work.
CURTIS RESOLVES TO ABANDON THE SHIP
DECEMBER 4. — The first attempt at mutiny being thus happily
suppressed, it is to be hoped that Curtis will succeed as well in future. An
insubordinate crew would render us powerless indeed.
Throughout the night the pumps were kept, without respite, steadily at
work, but without producing the least sensible benefit. The ship became so
water-logged and heavy that she hardly rose at all to the waves, which
consequently often washed over the deck and contributed their part
toward aggravating our case. Our situation was rapidly becoming as terrible
as it had been when the fire was raging in the midst of us; and the prospect
of being swallowed by the devouring billows was no less formidable than
that of perishing in the flames.
Curtis kept the men up to the mark, and, willing or unwilling, they
had no alternative but to work on as best they might; but in spite of all
their efforts, the water perpetually rose, till, at length, the men in the
hold who were passing the buckets found themselves immersed up to their
waists, and were obliged to come on deck.
This morning, after a somewhat protracted consultation with Walter and
the boatswain, Curtis resolved to abandon the ship. The only remaining boat
was far too small to hold us all, and it would therefore be necessary to
construct a raft that should carry those who could not find room in
her. Dowlas, the carpenter, Mr. Falsten, and ten sailors were told off to
put the raft in hand, the rest of the crew being ordered to continue their
work assiduously at the pumps, until the time came and everything was ready
Hatchet or saw in hand, the carpenter and his assistants made a
beginning without delay, by cutting and trimming the spare yards and extra
spars to a proper length. These were then lowered into the sea — which was
propitiously calm — so as to favor the operation (which otherwise would
have been very difficult) of lashing them together into a firm framework,
about forty feet long and twenty-five feet wide, upon which the platform was
to be supported.
I kept my own place steadily at the pumps, and Andre Letourneur worked
at my side. I often noticed his father glance at him sorrowfully, as though
he wondered what would become of him if he had to struggle with waves
to which even the strongest man could hardly fail to succumb. But come
what may, his father will never forsake him, and I myself shall not be
wanting in rendering him whatever assistance I can.
Mrs. Kear, who had been for some time in a state of drowsy
unconsciousness, was not informed of the immediate danger; but when Miss
Herbey, looking somewhat pale with fatigue, paid one of her flying visits to
the deck, I warned her to take every precaution for herself, and to be ready
for any emergency.
"Thank you, doctor, I am always ready," she cheerfully replied, and
returned to her duties below. I saw Andre follow the young girl with his
eyes, and a look of melancholy interest passed over his countenance.
Toward eight o'clock in the evening the framework for the raft was
almost complete, and the men were lowering empty barrels, which had first
been securely bunged, and were lashing them to the woodwork to insure
Two hours later and suddenly there arose the startling cry, "We are
sinking! we are sinking!"
Up to the poop rushed Mr. Kear, followed immediately by Falsten and Miss
Herbey, who were bearing the inanimate form of Mrs. Kear. Curtis ran to his
cabin, instantly returning with a chart, a sextant, and a compass in his
The scene that followed will ever be engraven in my memory; the cries of
distress, the general confusion, the frantic rush of the sailors toward the
raft that was not yet ready to support them, can never be forgotten. The
whole period of my life seemed to be concentrated into that
terrible moment when the planks bent below my feet and the ocean yawned
Some of the sailors had taken their delusive refuge in the shrouds, and
I was preparing to follow them when a hand was laid upon my shoulder..
Turning round I beheld M. Letourneur, with tears in his eyes, pointing toward
his son. "Yes, my friend," I said, pressing his hand, "we will save him,
But Curtis had already caught hold of the young man, and was hurrying
him to the main-mast shrouds, when the Chancellor, which had been scudding
along rapidly with the wind, stopped suddenly, with a violent shock, and
began to settle. The sea rose over my ankles, and almost instinctively I
clutched at the nearest rope. All at once, when it seemed all over, the ship
ceased to sink, and hung motionless in mid-ocean.
WHILE THERE'S LIFE THERE'S HOPE
NIGHT of December 4. — Curtis caught young Letourneur again in his
arms, and, running with him across the flooded deck, deposited him safely in
the starboard shrouds, whither his father and I climbed up beside him.
I now had time to look about me. The night was not very dark, and I
could see that Curtis had returned to his post upon the poop; while in the
extreme aft near the taffrail, which was still above water, I could
distinguish the forms of Mr. and Mrs. Kear, Miss Herbey, and Mr.
Falsten. The lieutenant and the boatswain were on the far end of the
forecastle; the remainder of the crew in the shrouds and top-masts.
By the assistance of his father, who carefully guided his feet up the
rigging, Andre was hoisted into the main-top. Mrs. Kear could not be induced
to join him in his elevated position, in spite of being told that if the wind
were to freshen she would inevitably be washed overboard by the waves;
nothing could induce her to listen to remonstrances, and she insisted upon
remaining on the poop — Miss Herbey, of course, staying by her side.
As soon as the captain saw the Chancellor was no longer sinking, he set
to work to take down all the sails — yards and all — and the top-gallants,
in the hope that by removing everything that could compromise the equilibrium
of the ship he might diminish the chance of her capsizing
"But may she not founder at any moment?" I said to Curtis, when I had
joined him for a while upon the poop.
"Everything depends upon the weather," he replied, in his calmest
manner; "that, of course, may change at any hour. One thing, however, is
certain, the Chancellor preserves her equilibrium for the present."
"But do you mean to say," I further asked, "that she can sail with two
feet of water over her deck?"
"No, Mr. Kazallon, she can't sail, but she can drift with the wind; and
if the wind remains in its present quarter, in the course of a few days we
might possibly sight the coast. Besides, we shall have our raft as a last
resource; in a few hours it will be ready, and at daybreak we can
"You have not, then," I added, "abandoned all hope even yet?" I marveled
at his composure.
"While there's life there's hope, you know, Mr. Kazallon; out of a
hundred chances, ninety-nine may be against us, but perhaps the odd one may
be in our favor. Besides, I believe that our case is not without precedent.
In the year 1795, a three-master, the Juno, was precisely in the
same half-sunk, water-logged condition as ourselves; and yet, with her
passengers and crew clinging to her top-masts, she drifted for twenty days,
until she came in sight of land, when those who had survived the deprivation
and fatigue were saved. So let us not despair; let us hold on to the hope
that the survivors of the Chancellor may be equally fortunate."
I was only too conscious that there was not much to be said in support
of Curtis's sanguine view of things, and that the force of reason pointed all
the other way; but I said nothing, deriving what comfort I could from the
fact that the captain did not yet despond of an ultimate rescue.
As it was necessary to be prepared to abandon the ship almost at a
moment's notice, Dowlas was making every exertion to hurry on the
construction of the raft. A little before midnight he was on the point of
conveying some planks for this purpose, when, to his astonishment
and horror, he found that the framework had totally disappeared. The
ropes that had attached it to the vessel had snapped as she became vertically
displaced, and probably it had been adrift for more than an hour.
The crew were frantic at this new misfortune, and shouting "Overboard
with the masts!" they began to cut down the rigging preparatory to taking
possession of the masts for a new raft.
But here Curtis interposed:
"Back to your places, my men; back to your places. The ship will not
sink yet, so don't touch a rope until I give you leave."
The firmness of the captain's voice brought the men to their senses, and
although some of them could ill disguise their reluctance, all returned to
When daylight had sufficiently advanced Curtis mounted the mast, and
looked around for the missing raft; but it was nowhere to be seen. The sea
was far too rough for the men to venture to take out the whale-boat in search
of it, and there was no choice but to set to work and to construct a new
Since the sea has become so much rougher, Mrs. Kear has been induced to
leave the poop, and has managed to join M. Letourneur and his son on the
main-top, where she lies in a state of complete prostration. I need hardly
add that Miss Herbey continues in her unwearied attendance. The space to
which these four people are limited is necessarily very small, nowhere
measuring twelve feet across: to prevent them losing their balance some spars
have been lashed from shroud to shroud, and for the convenience of the two
ladies Curtis has contrived to make a temporary awning of a sail. Mr. Kear
has installed himself with Silas Huntly on the foretop.
A few cases of preserved meat and biscuit and some barrels of water,
that floated between the masts after the submersion of the deck, have been
hoisted to the top-mast and fastened firmly to the stays. These are now our
MR. KEAR MAKES A BUSINESS DEAL
DECEMBER 5. — The day was very hot. December in latitude 16 deg. N.
is a summer month, and unless a breeze should rise to temper the burning sun,
we might expect to suffer from an oppressive heat.
The sea still remained very rough, and as the heavy waves broke over the
ship as though she were a reef, the foam flew up to the very top-masts, and
our clothes were perpetually drenched by the spray.
The Chancellor's hull is three-fourths immerged; besides the three masts
and the bowsprit, to which the whale-boat was suspended, the poop and the
forecastle are the only portions that now are visible; and as the
intervening section of the deck is quite below the water, these appear to be
connected only by the framework of the netting that runs along the
vessel's sides. Communication between the top-masts is extremely difficult,
and would be absolutely precluded, were it not that the sailors, with
practiced dexterity, manage to hoist themselves about by means of the stays.
For the passengers, cowering on their narrow and unstable platform, the
spectacle of the raging sea below was truly terrific; every wave that dashed
over the ship shook the masts till they trembled again, and one could venture
scarcely to look or to think lest he should be tempted to cast himself into
the vast abyss.
Meanwhile, the crew worked away with all their remaining vigor at the
second raft, for which the top-gallants and yards were all obliged to be
employed; the planks, too, which were continually being loosened and broken
away by the violence of the waves from the partitions of the ship,
were rescued before they had drifted out of reach, and were brought into
use. The symptoms of the ship foundering did not appear to be immediate; so
that Curtis insisted upon the raft being made with proper care to insure its
strength; we were still several hundred miles from the coast of
Guiana, and for so long a voyage it was indispensable to have a
structure of considerable solidity. The reasonableness of this was
self-apparent, and as the crew had recovered their assurance they spared no
pains to accomplish their work effectually.
Of all the number, there was but one, an Irishman, named O'Ready, who
seemed to question the utility of all their toil. He shook his head with an
oracular gravity. He is an oldish man, not less than sixty, with his hair
and beard bleached with the storms of many travels. As I was making my
way toward the poop, he came up to me and began talking.
"And why, bedad, I'd like to know, why is it that they'll all be afther
lavin' the ship?"
He turned his quid with the most serene composure, and continued:
"And isn't it me myself that's been wrecked nine times already? and
sure, poor fools are they that ever have put their trust in rafts or boats;
sure and they found a wathery grave. Nay, nay; while the ould ship lasts,
let's stick to her, says I."
Having thus unburdened his mind he relapsed into silence, and soon
About three o'clock I noticed that Mr. Kear and Silas Huntly were
holding an animated conversation in the foretop. The petroleum merchant had
evidently some difficulty in bringing the ex-captain round to his opinion,
for I saw him several times shake his head as he gave long and
scrutinizing looks at the sea and sky. In less than an hour afterward
I saw Huntly let himself down by the forestays and clamber along to the
fore-castle, where he joined the group of sailors, and I lost sight of
I attached little importance to the incident, and shortly afterward
joined the party in the main-top, where we continued talking for some
hours. The heat was intense, and if it had not been for the shelter afforded
by the sail-tent, would have been unbearable. At five o'clock we took as
refreshment some dried meat and biscuit, each individual being also
allowed half a glass of water. Mrs. Kear prostrate with fever, could not
touch a mouthful; and nothing could be done by Miss Herbey to relieve her,
beyond occasionally moistening her parched lips. The unfortunate lady
suffers greatly, and sometimes I am inclined to think that she
will succumb to the exposure and privation. Not once had her husband
troubled himself about her; but when shortly afterward I heard him hail
some of the sailors on the fore-castle and ask them to help him down from the
foretop, I began to think that the selfish fellow was coming to join his
At first the sailors took no notice of his request, but on his repeating
it with the promise of paying them handsomely for their services, two of
them, Burke and Sandon, swung themselves along the netting into the shrouds,
and were soon at his side.
A long discussion ensued. The men evidently were asking more than Mr.
Kear was inclined to give, and at one time it seemed as though the
negotiation would fall through altogether. But at length the bargain was
struck, and I saw Mr. Kear take a bundle of paper dollars from his
waistcoat pocket, and hand a number of them over to one of the men. The
man counted them carefully, and from the time it took him, I should think
that he could not have pocketed anything less than a hundred dollars.
The next business was to get Mr. Kear down from the foretop, and Burke
and Sandon proceeded to tie a rope round his waist, which they afterward
fastened to the forestay; then, in a way which provoked shouts of laughter
from their mates, they gave the unfortunate man a shove, and sent him
rolling down like a bundle of dirty clothes on to the forecastle.
I was quite mistaken as to his object. Mr. Kear had no intention of
looking after his wife, but remained by the side of Silas Huntly until the
gathering darkness hid them both from view.
As night drew on, the wind grew calmer, but the sea remained very
rough. The moon had been up ever since four in the afternoon, though she only
appeared at rare intervals between the clouds. Some long lines of vapor on
the horizon were tinged with a rosy glare that foreboded a strong breeze
for the morrow, and all felt anxious to know from which quarter the breeze
would come, for any but a northeaster would bear the frail raft on which we
were to embark far away from land.
About eight o'clock in the evening, Curtis mounted to the main-top, but
he seemed preoccupied and anxious, and did not speak to anyone. He remained
for a quarter of an hour, then after silently pressing my hand, he returned
to his old post.
I laid myself down in the narrow space at my disposal, and tried to
sleep; but my mind was filled with strange forebodings, and sleep was
impossible. The very calmness of the atmosphere was oppressive; scarcely a
breath of air vibrated through the metal rigging, and yet the sea rose
with a heavy swell as though it felt the warnings of a
All at once, at about eleven o'clock, the moon burst brightly forth
through a rift in the clouds, and the waves sparkled again as if illuminated
by a submarine glimmer. I start up and look around me. Is it merely
imagination? or do I really see a black speck floating, on the dazzling
whiteness of the waters, a speck that cannot be a rock, because it rises
and falls with the heaving motion of the billows? But the moon once again
becomes overclouded; the sea is darkened, and I return to my uneasy couch
close to the larboard shrouds.
THE WHALE-BOAT MISSING
DECEMBER 6. — I must have fallen asleep for a few hours, when, at four
o'clock in the morning, I was rudely aroused by the roaring of the wind, and
could distinguish Curtis's voice as he shouted in the brief intervals between
the heavy gusts.
I got up, and holding tightly to the purlin — for the waves made the
masts tremble with their violence — I tried to look around and below me. The
sea was literally raging beneath, and great masses of livid-looking foam were
dashing between the masts, which were oscillating terrifically. It
was still dark, and I could only faintly distinguish two figures in the
stern, whom, by the sound of their voices, that I caught occasionally above
the tumult, I made out to be Curtis and the boatswain.
Just at that moment a sailor, who had mounted to the main-top to do
something to the rigging, passed close behind me.
"What's the matter?" I asked.
"The wind has changed," he answered, adding something which I could not
hear distinctly, but which sounded like "dead against us."
Dead against us! then. thought I, the wind had shifted to the southwest,
and my last night's forebodings had been correct.
When daylight at length appeared, I found the wind, although not
blowing actually from the southwest, had veered round to the northwest, a
change which was equally disastrous to us, inasmuch as it was carrying us
away from land. Moreover, the ship had sunk considerably during the night,
and there were now five feet of water above deck; the side netting had
completely disappeared, and the forecastle and the poop were now all but on
a level with the sea, which washed over them incessantly. With all possible
expedition Curtis and his crew were laboring away at their raft, but the
violence of the swell materially impeded their operations, and it became a
matter of doubt as to whether the woodwork would not fall asunder before it
could be properly fastened together.
As I watched the men at their work, M. Letourneur, with one arm
supporting his son, came out and stood by my side.
"Don't you think this main-top will soon give way?" he said, as the
narrow platform on which we stood creaked and groaned with the swaying of the
Miss Herbey heard his words and pointing toward Mrs. Kear, who was lying
prostrate at her feet, asked what we thought ought to be done.
"We can do nothing but stay where we are," I replied.
"No," said Andre, "this is our best refuge; I hope you are not
"Not for myself," said the young girl quietly, "only for those to whom
life is precious."
At a quarter to eight we heard the boatswain calling to the sailors in
"Ay, ay, sir," said one of the men — O'Ready, I think.
"Where's the whale-boat?" shouted the boatswain in a loud voice.
"I don't know, sir. Not with us," was the reply.
"She's gone adrift, then!"
And sure enough the whale-boat was no longer hanging from the bowsprit;
and in a moment the discovery was made that Mr. Kear, Silas Huntly, and three
sailors, — a Scotchman and two Englishmen, — were missing. Afraid that
the Chancellor would founder before the completion of the raft, Kear and
Huntly had plotted together to effect their escape, and had bribed the three
sailors to seize the only remaining boat.
This, then, was the black speck that I had seen during the night. The
miserable husband had deserted his wife, the faithless captain had abandoned
the ship that had once been under his command.
"There are five saved, then," said the boatswain.
"Faith, an it's five lost ye'll be maning," said O'Ready; and the state
of the sea fully justified his opinion.
The crew were furious when they heard of the surreptitious flight, and
loaded the fugitives with all the invectives they could lay their tongues to.
So enraged were they at the dastardly trick of which they had been made the
dupes, that if chance should bring the deserters again on board I should
be sorry to answer for the consequences.
In accordance with my advice, Mrs. Kear has not been informed of her
husband's disappearance. The unhappy lady is wasting away with a fever for
which we are powerless to supply a remedy, for the medicine-chest was lost
when the ship began to sink. Nevertheless, I do not think we have anything
to regret on that score, feeling, as I do, that in a case like Mrs. Kear's,
drugs would be of no avail.
MRS. KEAR SUCCUMBS TO FEVER
DECEMBER 6 continued. — The Chancellor no longer maintained her
equilibrium; we felt that she was gradually going down, and her hull was
probably breaking up. The maintop was already only ten feet above water,
while the bowsprit, with the exception of the extreme end, that
rose obliquely from the waves, was entirely covered.
The Chancellor's last day, we felt, had come.
Fortunately the raft was all but finished, and unless Curtis preferred
to wait till morning, we should be able to embark in the evening.
The raft is a very solid structure. The spars that form the framework
are crossed one above another and lashed together with stout ropes, so that
the whole pile rises a couple of feet above the water. The upper platform is
constructed from the planks that were broken from the ship's sides by
the violence of the waves, and which had not drifted away. The afternoon has
been employed in charging the raft with such provisions, sails, tools, and
instruments as we have been able to save.
And how can I attempt to give any idea of the feelings with which, one
and all, we now contemplated the fate before us? For my own part, I was
possessed rather by a benumbed indifference than by any sense of genuine
resignation. M. Letourneur was entirely absorbed in his son, who, in his
turn, thought only of his father, at the same time exhibiting a Christian
fortitude, which was shown by no one else of the party except Miss Herbey,
who faced her danger with the same brave composure. Incredible as it may
seem, Falsten remained the same as ever, occupying himself with writing
down figures and memoranda in his pocketbook. Mrs. Kear, in spite of all that
Miss Herbey could do for her, was evidently dying.
With regard to the sailors, two or three of them were calm enough, but
the rest had well-nigh lost their wits. Some of the more ill-disposed among
them seemed inclined to run into excesses; and their conduct, under the bad
influence of Owen and Jynxstrop, made it doubtful whether they would
submit to control when once we were limited to the narrow dimensions of the
raft. Lieutenant Walter, although his courage never failed him, was worn
out with bodily fatigue, and obliged to give up all active labor;
but Curtis and the boatswain were resolute, energetic and firm as ever. To
borrow an expression from the language of metallurgic art, they were men "at
the highest degree of hardness."
At five o'clock one of our companions in misfortune was released from
her sufferings. Mrs. Kear, after a most distressing illness, through which
her young companion tended her with the most devoted care, has breathed her
last. A few deep sighs and all was over, and I doubt whether the sufferer
was ever conscious of the peril of her situation.
The night passed on without further incident. Toward morning I touched
the dead woman's hand, and it was cold and stiff. The corpse could not remain
any longer on the main-top, and after Miss Herbey and I had
carefully wrapped the garments about it, with a few short prayers the body
of the first victim of our miseries was committed to the deep.
As the sea closed over the body I heard one of the men in the shrouds
"There goes a carcass that we shall be sorry we have thrown away!"
I looked round sharply. It was Owen who had spoken. But horrible as were
his words, the conviction was forced upon my mind that the day could not be
far distant when we must want for food.
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
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
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 prevent 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 before
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 — before
they succeeded in bringing the raft alongside, and lashing 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
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 deplored.
"Now then, old fellow, off of this!" cried the captain to the old
Irishman, who did not move.
"And is it quite sure ye are that she's sinkin'?" he said.
"Ay, ay! sure enough, my man; and you'd better look sharp."
"Faith, then, and I think I will;" and not a moment too soon (for the
water was up to his waist) he jumped on to the raft.
Having cast one last, lingering look around him, Curtis then left the
ship; the rope was cut, and we went slowly adrift.
All eyes were fixed upon the spot where the Chancellor lay foundering.
The top of the mizzen was the first to disappear, then followed the
main-top; and soon, of what had been a noble vessel, not a vestige was to be
OUR SITUATION CRITICAL
WILL this frail boat, forty feet by twenty, bear us in safety? Sink it
cannot; the material of which it is composed 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 resisting
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
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
Walter, 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
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, another 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 pocketknife, 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 RAFT
DECEMBER 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 compass, 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
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 happening 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 reducing 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 biscuit, which may be eaten when and how he
pleases. The water will be given out twice a day — at ten in the
morning and six in the evening; but as the only drinking-vessels in our
possession are the teakettle and the old Irishman's tin pot, the water has to
be consumed immediately on distribution. 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
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 husbanding our stores.
WE CATCH A SUPPLY OF FISH
DECEMBER 8 to 17. — When night came we wrapped ourselves 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 intense, 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, however, 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 progress, 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 condition 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 relieved 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 supposing the wind shifts; what
"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 opinion.
Whether the captain is equally sanguine I am unable to say. He holds
himself very much aloof, and as he evidently 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 interesting, 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
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 history 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 without 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 accustomed to our
limited diet, and as we had no manual exertion, 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, inasmuch 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
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 conferences held among the sailors,
especially between Owen, Burke, Flaypole, Wilson, and Jynxstrop, the negro,
aroused some uneasy suspicions in my mind. What was the subject 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 interviews,
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 evidently 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 medicine-chest we might have temporarily reduced this by
quinine; but it is only too evident that the poor fellow is consumptive,
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 decay.
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 gasping 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, "perhaps 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 pursued his
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
"Once and for all, no."
For a moment, with a malicious grin upon his lips, Owen stood
confronting the captain; then, as though thinking better of himself, he
turned round and rejoined his companions, who were still talking together in
When I was afterward discussing the matter with Curtis, I asked him
whether he was sure he had done right in refusing 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
provisions 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 regarded attentively, though with
an anxious eye, the preliminary 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
"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
incomparable 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
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 produced 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
"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
"Lash yourselves tight," cried the boatswain, as he threw us some ropes;
and in a few moments with Curtis's assistance, M. Letourneur, and Andre,
Falsten and myself were fastened so firmly to the raft, that nothing but its
total disruption 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 himself
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 pelting
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 quarter, 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 before 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
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 perpendicularly on its edge. For an instant,
by the illumination of the lightning, we beheld ourselves raised to an
incomprehensible 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 platform, 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 platform, and as my
head came in collision with the corner of a spar, for a time I lost all
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 hurricane, and tended to diminish the electric tension of
Thanks to the kind care of M. Letourneur and Miss Herbey, 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 irreparable loss we have
sustained, and what a load of misery seems stored up for us in the
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 shipwrecks. Our party is thus reduced to sixteen souls,
leaving 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 fourteen 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
The day has passed away in silence. A general depression 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 im- portant to make the most of it, and after Dowlas had
carefully 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 repaired, 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
constriction 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
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
Slight as my hesitation was, Walter noticed it immediately.
"The truth," he said; "tell me the plain truth."
"My dear fellow, I am not a doctor, you know," I began," 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 evident 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
And then, turning away his head, he seemed to fall into a sort of
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 starvation. 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 considerably to sustain our strength. If we
had the same provisions 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 despair.
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 Herbey 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 discouraged at his
"But there will be plenty of bait before long," he said to me in a
"What do you mean?" said I, struck by his significant manner.
"You'll know soon enough," he answered.
What did he insinuate? The words, coming from a man usually so reserved,
have haunted me all night.
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 drifting farther
and farther to sea, it was now impossible to determine, 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
The boatswain approached me with a peculiar look on his
"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 swimming 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. Dowlas 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 excruciating
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 inadequate 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
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 possession 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
example, 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 swallowed its contents. What they wanted they scarcely
seemed to know, but Owen and Jynxstrop, not quite so much intoxicated as
the rest, seemed to be urging them on to massacre the captain and the
"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
"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
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 Letourneur 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 unfortunate man rolled over the side
of the raft and instantly disappeared.
"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
Wilson's death, however, put an end to the fray. Flaypole 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
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 impression 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
Enfeebled and emaciated as the young girl is, her sense of duty never
deserts her; and although her torn and bedraggled garments float dejectedly
about her body, she never utters a word of complaint, and never loses
"Mr. Kazallon," she said to me, "do you think we are fated to die of
"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
"Yes; but they have one consolation — they die the soonest," I
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
"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 acknowledged 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
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
He spoke passionately, almost fiercely, and I fully understood his
feelings. Taking his hand, I tried to reassure him.
"We will not despair yet," I said; "perhaps some passing 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, lowering 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
"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 temptation 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 latitudes, 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
So this evening at least, notwithstanding M. Letourneur's offer, I have
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.
Instantly 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 sickness. I must be pardoned for giving these
distressing details; 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
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.
Fortunately, 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
HUMAN FLESH FOR BAIT
JANUARY 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 proceeded 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
I turned round quickly, and found that it was Jynxstrop who had
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
"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
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 difficulty
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 myself, 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.
The boatswain's delight at his success was excessive, and amounted
almost to delirium. I went up to him, and encouraged him to repeat his
"Oh, yes," he said; "I'll try again. I'll try again."
"And why not try at once?" I asked.
"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
"Oh, I had some very good bait last night," he said.
I stared at him in amazement. He steadily returned my gaze, but said
"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 shattered
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 revived 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. Falsten 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
"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.
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
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 become a
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 conduct 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 direction 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 feature, 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.
A deep dejection followed this phantom ray of hope. All returned to
their accustomed places. Curtis alone remained motionless, but his eye no
longer scanned the distant view.
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
repeated 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 suspect 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,
"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
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 increased
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
reserved 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 evident — 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
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 perhaps 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 boatswain 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
recommendation, 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
"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.
"Look behind to larboard," he continued in an undertone.
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
starboard 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 résumé 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 question 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 distinguishable 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 drowning 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 direction 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 considered 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 sunbeams. 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
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
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
Meanwhile the brig had altered her track, and was moving slowly to the
east. Three hours later and the keenest eye could not have discerned her
top-sails above the horizon.
THE DEPTHS OF DESPAIR
JANUARY 15. — After this further shattering of our excited hopes,
death alone now stares us in the face; slow and lingering as that death may
be, sooner or later it must inevitably 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 appreciate 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 self-denying father had intrusted to my charge.
Jynxstrop, the negro, has broken loose from his confinement, 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
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 watching 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 nothing; and the only plan
that suggested itself was again to have recourse to Miss Herbey's red shawl,
of which a fragment 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, however, have
gone far away, and it was not likely that anything 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
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 distinguished; but as the waters far below seemed somehow to be
troubled I could not help believing that some of the brutes at least were
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 creature'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 appeared above
The whirl had passed right through the jaw into the middle of the
throat, so that no struggle on the part of the animal 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 expected) 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 attraction.
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 exasperated 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 another.
The heat was aggravated by the atmosphere being somewhat 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 distant 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
renovating moisture. The parched and swollen glands relaxed, I breathed
afresh, and my whole being seemed revived with a strange and requickened
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 platform on which we
had been lying, and mutual congratulations, 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 economize 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
"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.
Disappointed 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
MY FAST IS BROKEN
JANUARY 17. — As a natural consequence of the alleviation of our
thirst, the pangs of hunger returned more violently 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 perpetually
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 reduced 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 temperature,
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 direction 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 sensation 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 bloodhound 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 excited my cravings was the smell of
smoked bacon; the membranes 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 something 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 Hobart had saved
some provisions from the wreck, upon which he had been subsisting ever since.
The steward had provided 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
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 mouthfuls, 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 approach of day
with a strange anxiety. My conscience told me that Hobart had the right to
denounce me in the presence 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, unknown 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 bottom
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
A horrible presentiment carried me to the foot of the mast, and, just as
I had guessed, Hobart had hanged himself. 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
cannibals, 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 murdered; 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 companions 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
HOBART'S BODY STOLEN
JANUARY 19. — All through the day the sky remained unclouded 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
disturbed 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
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
"Can YOU tell us," said the boatswain, coming up to me, "who is the
"Thief!" I replied. "I don't know what you mean."
And while we were speaking the others all came up together, 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 venture anything, M. Letourneur had
committed the theft; in that case I knew that nothing would have prevented
the infuriated 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
THE NEGRO BECOMES INSANE
JANUARY 20 to 22. — For the day or two after the horrible repast of
the 18th those who had partaken of it appeared 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
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 reckoning 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 between a few drops of water and a few crumbs of
biscuit, I do not doubt that we should, without exception, have
preferred 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, everywhere around us! Again and
again, incapable of comprehending 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
A frightful fatality occurred to-day. The scene was terrible.
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 unaccountable 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
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
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
motionless 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 existence? 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
Even bathing, the only means of refreshment that we possessed, has now
become impossible, for ever since Jynxstrop'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 patience, 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
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 hearing — 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
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 corner of the raft, where he lay lost in a heavy
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 sufferings. I told
Curtis, with the utmost composure, of my intention, 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
captain 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 reaching 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 impatience 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. Toward 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 unavailing, 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 relieved. 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 standing 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
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
"Captain," he said, "we are going to draw lots."
Involuntarily I paused; I did not take my plunge, but returned to my
place upon the raft.
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. Turning round, I beheld M. Letourneur
standing with outstretched 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
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 without a start. Then came mine, yes, mine! and the ninth
was was that of Letourneur.
"Which one?" asked the boatswain.
"Andre," said M. Letourneur.
With one cry Andre fell back senseless. Only two names now remained in
the hat — those of Dowlas and M. Letourneur himself.
"Go on!" almost roared the carpenter, surveying his partner in peril as
though he could devour him. M. Letourneur 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, unperceived 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 MORE
JANUARY 26. — I understood it all; the devoted father having 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
displayed, 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 humanity could, at such a moment, have any weight;
nevertheless, the appeal was made, and, incredible as it may seem,
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
entreat, 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 supernatural 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
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 passengers on the raft. He looked
puzzled; when he lost consciousness 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 question, but took his father's hand. M. Letourneur's
countenance 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 impression caused by
Miss Herbey's intervention. Something told me that help was near at hand, and
that we were approaching 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 discovered somewhere to
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
But I was full of hope, and, without a moment's intermission, 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
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
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 waning
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 execution 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
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 concentrated 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
"My boy," said M. Letourneur, "the lot has fallen upon me, and I must
"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
"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 already bare.
"Stop a moment!" he said in a tone in which was the ring of indomitable
courage. "Stop! I don't want to deprive 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
"There are ten of you," he went on. "My two arms will give you each a
meal; cut them off for to-day, and tomorrow you shall have the rest of
"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 permitted, 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
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
"Fresh water!" were the first words I uttered.
"Fresh water?" cried Curtis; "why then, my friends, we are not far from
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
"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
JANUARY 27 continued. — Curtis, no doubt, was right. The discharge from
the mouth of the Amazon is enormously 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
together at the stern) clustered in a group, and kept our expectant
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 circumstances 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 influence 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
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 Herbey, J. R. Kazallon, M.
Letourneur, Andre Letourneur, Mr. Falsten, the boatswain, Dowlas, Burke,
Flaypole, Sandon, and last, though not
"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.
Nazaire, which conveyed us to Europe.
After all the dangers and privations which we have undergone 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
Miss Herbey, after some deliberation, consented to become 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?