WORKS of JULES VERNE
CHARLES F. HORNE
THE SURVIVORS OF THE CHANCELLOR was issued in 1875. Shipwrecks occur in
other of Verne's tales; but this is his only story devoted wholly to
such a disaster. In it the author has gathered all the tragedy, the
mystery, and the suffering possible to the sea. All the various forms
of disaster, all the possibilities of horror, the depths of shame and
agony, are heaped upon these unhappy voyagers. The accumulation is
mathematically complete and emotionally unforgettable. The tale has
well been called the "imperishable epic of shipwreck."
The idea of the book is said to have originated in the celebrated
French painting by Gericault, "the Wreck of the Medusa," now in the
Louvre gallery. The Medusa was a French frigate wrecked off the coast
of Africa in 1816. Some of the survivors, escaping on a raft, were
rescued by a passing ship after many days of torture. Verne, however,
seems also to have drawn upon the terrifying experiences of the British
ship Sarah Sands in 1857, her story being fresh in the public mind at
the time he wrote. The Sarah Sands caught fire off the African coast
while on a voyage to India carrying British troops. There was gunpowder
aboard liable to blow up at any moment. Some of it did indeed explode,
tearing a huge hole in the vessel's side. A storm added to the terror,
and the waters entering the breach caused by the explosion, combated
with the fire. After ten days of desperate struggle, the charred and
sinking vessel reached a port.
The extreme length of life which Verne allows his people in their
starving, thirsting condition is proven possible by medical science and
recent "fasting"' experiments. The dramatic climax of the tale wherein
the castaways find fresh water in the ocean is based upon a fact, one
of those odd geographical facts of which the author made such frequent,
skillful and instructive use.
"Michael Strogoff" which, through its use as a stage play, has become
one of the best known books of all the world, was first published in
1876. Its vivid, powerful story has made it a favorite with every
red-blooded reader. Its two well-drawn female characters, the
courageous heroine, and the stern, endurant, yearning mother, show how
well Verne could depict the tenderer sex when he so willed. Though
usually the rapid movement and adventure of his stories leave women in
As to the picture drawn in "Michael Strogoff" of Russia and Siberia, it
is at once instructive and sympathetic. The horrors are not blinked at,
yet neither is Russian patriotism ignored. The loyalty of some of the
Siberian exiles to their mother country is a side of life there which
is too often ignored by writers who dwell only on the darker view.
The Czar, in our author's hands, becomes the hero figure to the
erection of which French "hero worship" is ever prone. The sarcasms
thrown occasionally at the British newspaper correspondent of the
story, show the changing attitude of Verne toward England, and reflect
the French spirit of his day.
The Survivors of the Chancellor
by Jules Verne
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, A1,
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 masts.
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 God."
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 present.
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 Mrs. Kear.
M. Letourneur and his son Andre, Frenchmen, of Havre.
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
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 less monotonous.
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 said:
"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 own sorrow."
"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
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
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 be lost."
"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 my part.
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
"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 topgallants 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
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
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. 17' W.
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 unaccountable.
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
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
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
mid-ocean, the phenomenon of the high syzygian tides will take place on
the shores of every continent and island.
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 great hatchway.
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 straight-forward 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 disturbance.
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
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 words, said:
"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
"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 avert.
"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 asked.
"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
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 burst.
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 time.
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 appalling.
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
"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
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 say.
"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 shoulder.
"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
"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 critical situation.
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 word.
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 than mine."
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
"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 admiration.
OCTOBER 23.—This morning, Captain Huntly sent for Curtis into his
cabin, and the mate has since made me acquainted with what passed
"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 left?"
"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
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 mainmast 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
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
"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 mizzen.
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
"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
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
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 the helm!"
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 poop.
"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
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 the poop.
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 America.
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 appeared.
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 explosion averted.
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
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, ill-tempered 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 again."
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 on board.
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
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
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 despond.
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 as possible.
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
"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, completely into pieces."
Here, then, was the suggestion of a new danger to which we were to be
exposed; the fire might be extinguished, the water might be got rid of
by the pumps, but, after all, we must be at the mercy of the wind and
waves; and, although the rocky island might afford a temporary refuge
from the tempest, what was to become of passengers and crew if the
vessel should be reduced to a total wreck? I made no remonstrance,
however, to this view of our case, but merely asked M. Letourneur if he
had confidence in Robert Curtis?
"Perfect confidence," he answered; "and I acknowledge it most
gratefully, as a providential circumstance, that 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
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, to vegetate.
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
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
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,
up-heaved 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
"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
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
"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 tackle it."
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 solid pavement.
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 bear.
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
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 inundated.
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
iron-belts 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
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 safety.
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 remains.
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 be surmounted.
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 rocks.
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 beyond.
"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 December 1.—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
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
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
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 considerably.
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 depths.
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
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 minute
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 for embarkation.
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 its floating.
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 hand.
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 beneath me.
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, if possible."
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
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 altogether.
"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
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
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
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 their posts.
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 raft immediately.
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
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 only provisions.
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 went
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 wife.
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
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
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
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
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 masts.
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 afraid."
"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 the waves.
But all was ready on the raft; an erection had been made on the fore to
hold a mast, which was supported by shrouds fastened to the sides of
the platform; this mast carried a large royal.
Perhaps, after all, these few frail planks will carry us to the shore
which the Chancellor has failed to reach; at any rate, we cannot yet
resign all hope.
We were just on the point of embarking at 7 A. M. when the Chancellor
all at once began to sink so rapidly that the carpenter and men who
were on the raft were obliged with all speed to cut the ropes that
secured it to the vessel, to prevent it from being swallowed up in the
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
air-bubbles were rising to the surface of the water.
The time was come. At Curtis's word, "Embark!" we all hurried to the
raft. Andre, who insisted upon seeing Miss Herbey go first, was helped
safely on to the platform, where his father immediately joined him. In
a very few minutes all except Curtis and old O'Ready had left the
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 seen.
OUR SITUATION CRITICAL
WILL this frail boat, forty feet by twenty, bear us in safety? Sink it
cannot; the material of which it is 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
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 their resources.
The greater part of the provisions in the store-room were destroyed at
the time when the ship's deck was submerged, and the small quantity
that Curtis has been able to save will be very inadequate to supply the
wants of eighteen people, who too probably have many days to wait ere
they sight either land or a passing vessel. One cask of biscuit,
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 pocket-knife, and O'Ready an old tin pot, of
which he takes the most tender care; in addition to these, we are in
possession of a sextant, a compass, a chart, and a metal tea-kettle,
everything else that was placed on deck in readiness for the first raft
having been lost in the partial submersion of the vessel.
Such then is our situation; critical indeed, but after all perhaps not
desperate. We have one great fear; some there are among us whose
courage, moral as well as physical, may give way, and over failing
spirits such as these we may have no control.
FIRST DAY ON THE 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
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 purpose.
By half-past nine the mast was hoisted, and held firmly in its place by
some shrouds attached securely to the sides of the raft; then the sail
was run up and trimmed to the wind, and the raft began to make a
perceptible progress under the brisk breeze.
As soon as we had once started, the carpenter set to work to contrive
some sort of a rudder, that would enable us to maintain our desired
direction. Curtis and Falsten assisted him with some serviceable
suggestions, and in a couple of hours' time he had made and fixed to
the back of the raft a kind of paddle, very similar to those used by
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
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 express permission.
I should not forget that there are two sources from which we may hope
to increase our store. First, any rain that may fall will add to our
supply of water, and two empty barrels have been placed ready to
receive it; secondly, we hope to do something in the way of fishing,
and the sailors have already begun to prepare some lines.
All have mutually agreed to abide by the rules that have been laid
down, for all are fully aware that by nothing but the most precise
regimen can we hope to avert the horrors of famine, and forewarned by
the fate of many who in similar circumstances have miserably perished,
we are determined to do all that prudence can suggest for husbanding
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
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 word.
Miss Herbey occasionally joins in our conversation, but although we all
do our best to make her forget that she has lost those who should have
been her natural protectors, M. Letourneur is the only one among us to
whom she speaks without a certain reserve. To him, whose age gives him
something of the authority of a father, she has told the 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
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 its wake.
In the afternoon the sky became slightly over-clouded, and the heat
consequently less oppressive. The swell made it more difficult for the
raft to keep its balance, and we shipped two or three heavy seas; but
the carpenter managed to make with some planks a kind of wall about a
couple of feet high, which protected us from the direct action of the
waves. Our casks of food and water were secured to the raft with double
ropes, for we dared not run the risk of their being carried overboard,
an accident that would at once have reduced us to the direst distress.
In the course of the day the sailors gathered some of the marine plants
known by the name of sargassos, very similar to those we saw in such
profusion between the Bermudas and Ham Rock. I advised my companions to
chew the laminary tangles, which they would find contained a saccharine
juice, affording considerable relief to their parched lips and throats.
The remainder of the day passed without incident. I should not,
however, omit to mention that the frequent 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
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
"Where are you off to now, Owen?" said the boatswain.
"That's my business," said the man insolently, and pursued his course.
The boatswain was about to stop him, but before he could interfere
Curtis was standing and looking Owen steadily in the face.
"Ah, captain, I've got a word from my mates to say to you," he said,
with all the effrontery imaginable.
"Say on, then," said the captain coolly.
"We should like to know about that little keg of brandy. Is it being
kept for the porpoises or the officers?"
Finding that he obtained no reply, he went on:
"Look here, captain, what we want is to have our grog served out every
morning as usual."
"Then you certainly will not," said the captain.
"What! what!" exclaimed Owen, "don't you mean to let us have our grog?"
"Once and for all, no."
For a moment, with a malicious grin upon his lips, Owen stood
confronting the captain; then, as though thinking better of himself, he
turned round and rejoined his companions, who were still talking
together in an undertone.
When I was afterward discussing the matter with Curtis, I asked him
whether he was sure he had done right in 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
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 lighted alcohol.
"Are you afraid of a storm. Miss Herbey?" said Andre to the girl.
"No, Mr. Andre, my feelings are always rather those of awe than of
fear," she replied. "I consider a storm one of the sublimest phenomena
that we can behold—don't you think so too?"
"Yes, and especially when the thunder is pealing," he said; "that
majestic rolling, far different to the sharp crash of artillery, rises
and falls like the long-drawn notes of the grandest music, and I can
safely say that the tones of the most accomplished artiste have never
moved me like that 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 100 deg. to 150 deg., leaving the atmosphere
pervaded by one incessant phosphorescent glow.
The thunder became at length more and more distinct, the reports, if I
may use the expression, being "round," rather than rolling. It seemed
almost as though the sky were padded with heavy clouds of which the
elasticity muffled the sound of the electric bursts.
Hitherto, the sea had been calm, almost stagnant as a pond. Now,
however, long undulations took place, which the sailors recognized, all
too well, as being the rebound 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
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 shouting:
"A squall! a squall!"
TWO SAILORS WASHED OVERBOARD
DECEMBER 21, night.—The boatswain rushed to the halliards that
supported the sail, and instantly lowered the yard; not a moment too
soon, for with the speed of an arrow the squall was upon us, and if it
had not been for the sailor's timely warning we must all have been
knocked down and probably precipitated into the sea; as it was, our
tent on the back of the raft was carried away.
The raft itself, however, being so nearly level with the water, had
little peril to encounter from the actual wind; but from the mighty
waves now raised by the hurricane we had everything to dread. At first
the waves had been crushed and flattened as it were by the pressure of
the air, but now, as though strengthened by the reaction, they rose
with the utmost fury. The raft followed the motions of the increasing
swell, and was tossed up and down, to and fro, and from side to side
with the most violent oscillations.
"Lash yourselves tight," cried the boatswain, as he threw us some
ropes; and in a few moments with Curtis's 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 seething waters.
At last, toward three in the morning, when the hurricane seemed to be
raging more fiercely than ever, the raft, caught up on the crest of an
enormous wave, stood literally 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
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
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 the atmosphere.
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 it all.
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 important 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 endured.
One alone there was among us who did not feel the pangs of hunger.
Lieutenant Walter seemed as it were to feed upon the fever that raged
within him; but then he was the victim of the most torturing thirst.
Miss Herbey, besides reserving for him a portion of her own
insufficient allowance, obtained from the captain a small extra supply
of water with which every quarter of an hour she moistened the parched
lips of the young man, who, almost too weak to speak, could only
express his thanks by a grateful smile. Poor fellow! all our care
cannot avail to save him now; he is doomed, most surely doomed to die.
On the 23d he seemed to be conscious of his condition, for he made a
sign to me to sit down by his side, and then summoning up all his
strength to speak, he asked me in a few broken words how long I thought
he had to live?
Slight as my hesitation was, Walter noticed it 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
"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 face.
And then, turning away his head, he seemed to fall into a sort of doze.
The 24th, 25th, and 26th passed without any alteration in our
circumstances, and strange, nay, incredible as it may sound, we began
to get accustomed to our condition of 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
On the 1st of January, we swallowed our last morsel of biscuit. The
first of January! New Year's Day! What a rush of sorrowful
recollections overwhelmed our minds! Had we not always associated the
opening of another year with new hopes, new plans, and coming joys? And
now, where were we? Could we dare to look at one another, and breathe a
New Year's greeting?
The boatswain approached me with a peculiar look on his countenance.
"You are surely not going to wish me a happy New Year?" I said.
"No indeed, sir," he replied, "I was only going to wish you well
through the first day of it; and that is pretty good assurance on my
part, for we have not another crumb to eat."
True as it was, we scarcely realized the fact of there being actually
nothing until on the following morning the hour came round for the
distribution of the scanty ration, and then, indeed, the truth was
forced upon us in a new and startling light. Toward evening I was
seized with violent pains in the stomach, accompanied by a constant
desire to yawn and gape that was most distressing; but in a couple of
hours the extreme agony passed away, and on the 3d I was surprised to
find that I did not suffer more. I felt, it is true, that there was
some great void within myself, but the sensation was quite as much
moral as physical. My head was so heavy that I could not hold it up; it
was 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 several hours.
At six o'clock this morning I was roused by the sound of angry voices,
and, starting up, I saw Owen and Jynxstrop, with Flaypole, Wilson,
Burke, and Sandon, standing in a threatening attitude. They had taken
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
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 officers.
"Down with the captain! Overboard with Curtis! Owen shall take the
command!" they shouted from time to time in their drunken fury; and,
armed as they were, they appeared completely masters of the situation.
"Now, then, down with your arms!" said Curtis sternly, as he advanced
to meet them.
"Overboard with the captain!" howled Owen, as by word and gesture he
urged on his accomplices.
Curtis pushed aside the excited rascals, and, walking straight up to
Owen, asked him what he wanted.
"What do we want? Why, we want no more captains; we are all equals now."
Poor stupid fool! as though misery and privation had not already
reduced us all to the same level.
"Owen," said the captain once again, "down with your arms!"
"Come on, all of you," shouted Owen to his companions, without giving
the slightest heed to Curtis's words.
A regular struggle ensued. Owen and Wilson attacked Curtis, who
defended himself with a piece of spar; Burke and Flaypole rushed upon
Falsten and the boatswain, while I was left to confront the negro
Jynxstrop, who attempted to strike me with the hammer which he
brandished in his hand. I endeavored to paralyze his movements by
pinioning his arms, but the rascal was my superior in muscular
strength. After wrestling for a few minutes, I felt that he was getting
the mastery over me, when all of a sudden he rolled over on to the
platform, dragging me with him. Andre 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 duty."
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 courage.
"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 said.
"Yes; but they have one consolation—they die the soonest," I replied,
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
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 still alive.
The one of our party who seems to bear his privations the best is
Hobart the steward, a man with whom hitherto I have had very little to
do. He is small, with a fawning expression remarkable for its
indecision, and has a smile which is incessantly playing round his
lips; he goes about with his eyes half closed, as though he wished to
conceal his thoughts, and there is something altogether false and
hypocritical about his whole demeanor. I cannot say that he bears his
privations without a murmur, for he sighs and moans incessantly; but,
with it all, I cannot but think that there is a want of genuineness in
his manner, and that the privation has not really told upon him as much
as it has upon the rest of us. I have my suspicions about the man, and
intend to watch him carefully.
To-day, the 6th, M. Letourneur drew me aside to the stern of the raft,
saying he had a secret to communicate, but that he wished neither to be
seen nor heard speaking to me. I withdrew with him to the larboard
corner of the raft, and, as it was growing dusk, nobody observed what
we were doing.
"Mr. Kazallon," M. Letourneur began, in a low voice, "Andre is dying of
hunger; he is growing weaker and weaker, and oh! I cannot, will not,
see him die!"
He spoke passionately, almost fiercely, and I fully 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 hand.
"Give it him," M. Letourneur went on under his breath, "give it him;
but do not let anyone see you; the monsters would murder you if they
knew it! This is only for to-day; I will give you some more to-morrow."
The poor fellow did not trust me—and well he might not—for I had the
greatest difficulty to withstand the 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 of food.
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
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 discover.
Whenever the breeze drops the heat is overpowering; but although our
allowance of water is very meager, at present the pangs of hunger far
exceed the pain of thirst. It has often been remarked that extreme
thirst is far less endurable than extreme hunger. Is it possible that
still greater agonies are in store for us? I cannot, dare not, believe
it. 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
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
"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
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
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 spoken.
As the boatswain now approached, I asked him whether he thought it
possible that any of the wretched men could have taken the dead man's
"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 thirteen.
"An unlucky number!" said Andre, with a mournful smile.
During the night the boatswain cast his lines from the stern of the
raft, and, unwilling to trust them to anyone else, remained watching
them himself. In the morning I went to ascertain what success had
attended his patience. It was scarcely light, and with eager eyes he
was peering down into the water. He had neither seen nor heard me
"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 and 10.—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
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, exclaimed:
"No! no! no! of that water I will not touch a drop."
I supposed he did not understand what we were going to do, and
endeavored to explain; but all in vain; he persisted in refusing to
taste the water in the second barrel. I then tried to induce vomiting
by tickling his uvula, and he brought off some bluish secretion from
his stomach, the character of which confirmed our previous
suspicions—that he had been poisoned by oxide of copper. We now felt
convinced that any effort on our part to save him would be of no avail.
The vomiting, however, had for the time relieved him, and he was able
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
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 cannot tell.
Throughout the 12th no drain of moisture crossed our lips, and not a
cloud arose to warrant the expectation of a passing shower; in the
shade, if shade it might be called, the thermometer would have
registered at least 100 deg., and 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
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 resume 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
Some planks were quickly loosened and thrown into a heap upon the fore
part of the raft. They were damp and troublesome to light; but the very
dampness made the smoke more dense, and ere long a tall column of dusky
fumes was rising straight upward in the air. If darkness should come on
before the brig was completely out of view, the flames, we hoped might
still be visible. But the hours passed on; the fire died out; and yet
no signs of help.
The temper of resignation now deserted me entirely; faith, hope,
confidence—all vanished from my mind, and, like the boatswain, I swore
long and loudly. A gentle hand was laid upon my arm, and turning round
I saw Miss Herbey with her finger pointing to the sky. I could stand it
no longer, but gliding underneath the tent I hid my face in my hands
and wept aloud.
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 mischief now.
Some huge sharks made their appearance to-day, cleaving the water
rapidly with their great black fins. The monsters came up close to the
edge of the raft, and Flaypole, who was leaning over, narrowly escaped
having his arm snapped off by one of them. I could not help regarding
them as living sepulchers, which ere long might swallow up our
miserable carcasses; yet, withal, I profess that my feelings were those
of fascination rather than horror.
The boatswain, who stood with clenched teeth and dilated eye, regarded
these sharks from quite another point of view. He thought about
devouring the sharks, not about the sharks devouring him; and if he
could succeed in catching one, I doubt if one of us would reject the
tough and untempting flesh. He determined to make the attempt, and as
he had no whirl which he could fasten to his rope he set to work to
find something that might serve as a substitute. Curtis and Dowlas were
consulted, and after a short conversation, during which they kept
throwing bits of rope and spars into the water in order to entice the
sharks to remain by the raft, Dowlas went and fetched his carpenter's
tool, which is at once a hatchet and a hammer. Of this he proposed to
make the whirl of which they were in need, under the hope that either
the sharp edge of the adze or the pointed extremity opposite would
stick firmly into the jaws of any shark that might swallow it. The
wooden handle of the hammer was secured to the rope, which, in its turn
was tightly fastened to the raft.
With eager, almost breathless, excitement we stood 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
"The first man who speaks," he said, "I will kill him on the spot."
Again he applied himself to his task. The whirl was again lowered, this
time to the depth of twenty fathoms, but for half an hour or more not a
shark could be 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 still there.
All at once, with a violent jerk, the cord was wrested from the
boatswain's hands; firmly attached, however, as it was to the raft, it
was not lost. The bait had been seized by a shark, and the iron had
made good its hold upon the 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
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
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
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
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
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 intention.
"Stop, stop!" he said "we must wait a moment; we must see whether this
water from the sails is drinkable."
I looked at him in amazement. Why should not this be as drinkable as
the other? He squeezed a few drops out of one of the folds of a sail
into a tin pot, and put it to his lips. To my surprise, he rejected it
immediately, and upon tasting it for myself I found it not merely
brackish, but briny as the sea itself. The fact was that the canvas had
been so long exposed to the action of the waves, that it had become
thoroughly impregnated by salt, which of course was taken up again by
the water that fell upon it. 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 the future.
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
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
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
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 necessary 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 raft.
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
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
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 act.
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 flesh.
Before long, all the cravings of hunger began to return to the sailors,
and I could see their eyes greedily glancing upon us, starved as they
knew us to be, as though they were 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 live.
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
Falsten, Dowlas, and the boatswain, made a rush that at least they
might secure the body; but it was too late; all that they could see was
a crimson circle in the water, and some huge sharks disporting
themselves around the spot.
ALL HOPE GONE
JANUARY 23.—Only eleven of us now remain; and the probability is very
great that every day must now carry off at least its one victim, and
perhaps more. The end of the tragedy is rapidly approaching, and save
for the chance, which is next to an impossibility, of our sighting
land, or being picked up by a passing vessel, ere another week has
elapsed not a single survivor of the Chancellor will remain.
The wind freshened considerably in the night, and it is now blowing
pretty briskly from the northeast. It has filled our sail, and the
white foam in our wake is an indication that we are making some
progress. The captain reckons that we must be advancing at the rate of
about three miles an hour.
Curtis and Falsten are certainly in the best condition among us, and in
spite of their extreme emaciation they bear up wonderfully under the
protracted hardships we have all endured. Words cannot describe the
melancholy state to which poor Miss Herbey bodily is reduced; her whole
being seems absorbed into her soul, but that soul is brave and resolute
as ever, living in heaven rather than on earth. The boatswain, strong,
energetic man that he was, has shrunk into a mere shadow of his former
self, and I doubt whether anyone would recognize him to be the same
man. He keeps perpetually to one corner of the raft, his head dropped
upon his chest, and his long, bony hands lying upon knees that project
sharply from his worn-out trowsers. Unlike Miss Herbey, his spirit
seems to have sunk into apathy, and it is at times difficult to believe
that he is living at all, so 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.—I 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
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 human estimate.
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
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 hallucination.
Dowlas, Falsten, and the boatswain, seemed to think that the
unfortunate wretch would, like Jynxstrop, put an end to himself by
leaping into the sea; but, determined this time to preserve the body,
that it might serve a better purpose than merely feeding the sharks,
they rose and followed the madman everywhere he went, keeping a strict
eye upon his every movement.
But the matter did not end as they expected. As though he were really
intoxicated by the stimulants of which he had been raving, Flaypole at
last sank down in a heap in a corner of the raft, where he lay lost in
a heavy slumber.
I DECIDE TO COMMIT SUICIDE
JANUARY 25.—Last night was very misty, and for some unaccountable
reason, one of the hottest that can be imagined. The atmosphere was
really so stifling, that it seemed as if it only required a spark to
set it alight. The raft was not only quite stationary, but did not even
rise and fall with any motion of the waves.
During the night I tried to count how many there were now on board, but
I was utterly unable to collect my ideas sufficiently to make the
enumeration. Sometimes I counted ten, sometimes twelve, and although I
knew that eleven, since Jynxstrop was dead, was the correct number, I
could never bring my reckoning right. Of one thing I felt quite sure,
and that was that the number would very soon be ten. I was convinced
that I could myself last but very little longer. All the events and
associations of my life passed rapidly through my brain. My country, my
friends, and my family all appeared as it were in a vision, and seemed
as though they had come to bid me a last farewell.
Toward morning I woke from my sleep, if the languid stupor into which I
had fallen was worthy of that name. One fixed idea had taken possession
of my brain—I would put an end to myself; and I felt a sort of
pleasure as I gloated over the power that I had to terminate my
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
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 desert.
It was ten o'clock in the morning. The pangs of hunger and the torments
of thirst were racking me with redoubled vigor. All instinct of
self-preservation had left me, and I felt that the hour had come when I
must cease to suffer. Just as I was on the point of casting myself
headlong into the sea, a voice, which I recognized as Dowlas's, broke
upon my ear.
"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
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
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
"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
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, prevailed.
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 leeward.
I imparted my convictions to M. Letourneur and his son. Andre was as
sanguine as myself; poor boy! he little thinks what a loss there is in
store for him to-morrow. His father listened gravely to all we said,
and whatever he might think in his own mind, he did not give us any
discouragement; Heaven, he said, he was sure would still spare the
survivors of the Chancellor, and then he lavished on his son caresses
which he deemed to be his last.
Some time afterward, when I was alone with him, M. Letourneur whispered
in my ear:
"Mr. Kazallon, I commend my boy to your care, and mark you, he must
His voice was choked with tears, and he could not finish his sentence.
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 observed.
JANUARY 27.—I did not close my eyes all night, and was keenly alive to
the faintest sounds, and every ripple of the water, and every murmur of
the waves, broke distinctly on my ear. One thing I noticed and accepted
as a happy omen; not a single shark now lingered round the raft. The
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
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
"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 purpose.
"Come, come, no more fuss," said Dowlas, as he tore the young man away
from his father's embrace.
Andre fell upon his back, in which position two of the sailors held him
down so tightly that he could not move, while Burke and Sandon carried
off their victim to the front.
All this had taken place much more rapidly than I have been able to
describe it. I was transfixed with horror, and much as I wished to
throw myself between M. Letourneur and his executioners, I seemed to be
rooted to the spot where I was standing.
Meantime the sailors had been taking off some of M. Letourneur's
clothes, and his neck and shoulders were 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 amazement.
"There are ten of you," he went on. "My two arms will give you each a
meal; cut them off for to-day, and to-morrow you shall have the rest of
"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 raft.
"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
"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 lost.
Of the thirty-two souls—nine passengers and twenty-three seamen—who
left Charleston on board the ship, only five passengers and six seamen
remain. Eleven of us alone survive.
An official account of our rescue was drawn up by the Brazilian
authorities. Those who signed were Miss Herbey, J. R. Kazallon, M.
Letourneur, Andre Letourneur, Mr. Falsten, the boatswain, Dowlas,
Burke, Flaypole, Sandon, and last, though not least,
"Robert Curtis, Captain."
At Para we soon found facilities for continuing our homeward route. A
vessel took us to Cayenne, where we secured a passage on board one of
the steamers of the French Transatlantic Aspinwall line, the Ville de
St. 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?