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The Survivors of the Chancellor by Jules Verne

Part 3 out of 4

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shows! If any one survives this misery, I think it will be he.

CHAPTER XXXVII.

DECEMBER 23rd to 30th--After the storm the wind settled back into
its old quarter, blowing pretty briskly from the north-east. As
the breeze was all in our favour 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 23rd 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 amongst 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 23rd 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 scarcely judge--"

"Never mind," he interrupted, "tell me just what you think."

I looked at him attentively for some moments, then laid my ear
against his chest. In the last few days his malady had made
fearfully rapid strides, and it was only too evident that one
lung had already ceased to act, whilst 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 coloured 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 failure.

"But there will be plenty of bait before long," he said to me in
a solemn undertone.

"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.

CHAPTER XXXVIII.

JANUARY 1st to 5th.--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 towards the 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 grey line that united sea and sky, and our raft
remained the centre of the wide and dreary waste.

On the 1st of January we swallowed our last morsel of biscuit.
The 1st 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. Towards 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 3rd 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 meagre ration
which a few days back we had 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 carried into their interstices has
been scraped out devoured, our resources are literary at an end.

The nights seem even longer than the days. Sleep, when it comes,
brings no relief; it is rather a feverish stupour, 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 Jynxtrop, with Flaypole,
Wilson, Burke, and Sandon, standing in a threatening attitude.
They had taken possession of the carpenter's tools, and now,
armed with hatchets, chisels, and hammers, they were preparing to
attack the captain, the boatswain, and Dowlas. I attached myself
in a moment to Curtis's party. Falsten followed my example, and
although our knives were the only weapons at our disposal, we
were ready to defend ourselves to the very last extremity.

Owen and his men advanced towards 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
Jynxtrop, 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 a spar; Burke and Flaypole
rushed upon Falsten and the boatswain, whilst I was left to
confront the negro Jynxtrop, who attempted to strike me with the
hammer which he brandished in his hand. I endeavoured to
paralyze his movements by pinioning his arms, but the rascal was
my superior in muscular strength. After wrestling for a few
moments, 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. Jynxtrop 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 at 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 his sentence.

Wilson's death, however, put an end to the fray. Flaypole and
Burke were lying prostrate in a drunken stupour, and Jynxtrop was
soon overpowered, and lashed tightly to the foot of the mast.
The carpenter and the 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 effrontery.

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.

CHAPTER XXXIX.

JANUARY 5th and 6th.--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 hunger?"

"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 coldly.

Had every spark of humanity died out of my breast that I thus
brought the girl face to face with the terrible truth without a
word of hope or comfort? The eyes of Andre and his father,
dilated with hunger, were fixed upon me, and I saw reproach and
astonishment written in their faces.

Afterwards, when we were quite alone, Miss Herbey asked me if I
would grant her a favour.

"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 my
body into the sea."

"Oh, Miss Herbey," I began, "it was very wrong of me to speak to
you as I did!"

"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 demeanour. 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 that 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; some one will hear us," he said, Towering
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 any one 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 tasted nothing.

CHAPTER XL.

JANUARY 7th.--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 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.

Today 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 endeavouring to fill his stomach by
putting the mucus' into circulation at length, by dint of an
eager search, he came upon a piece of leather hanging to one of
the spars that supported the platform. He snatched it off and
devoured it greedily, and as it was animal matter, it really
seemed as though the absorption of the substance afforded him
some temporary relief. Instantly we all followed his example; a
leather hat, the rims of caps, in short, anything that contained
any animal matter at all, were gnawed and sucked with the utmost
avidity. Never shall I forget the scene. We were no longer
human, the impulses and instincts of brute beasts seemed to
actuate our every movement.

For a moment the pangs of hunger were somewhat allayed; but some
of us revolted against the loathsome food, and were seized either
with violent nausea or absolute sickness. I must be pardoned for
giving these distressing details, but how otherwise can I depict
the misery, moral and physical, which we are enduring? And with
it all, I dare not venture to hope that we have reached the
climax of our sufferings.

The conduct of Hobart during the scene that I have just described
has only served to confirm my previous suspicions of him. He
took no part in the almost fiendish energy with which we gnawed
at our scraps of leather, and although by his conduct and
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 meagre, at present the pangs of
hunger far exceed the pain of thirst. It has often been remarked
that extreme thirst is far less endurable than extreme hunger.
Is it possible that still greater agonies are in store for us? I
cannot, dare not, believe it. Fortunately, the broken barrel
still contains a few pints of water, and the other one has not
yet been opened. But I am glad to say that notwithstanding our
diminished numbers, and in spite of some opposition, the captain
has thought right to reduce the daily allowance to half a pint
for each person. As for the brandy, of which there is only a
quart now left, it has been stowed away safely in the stern of
the raft.

This evening has ended the sufferings of another of our
companions, making our number now only fourteen. My attentions
and Miss Herbey's nursing could do nothing for Lieutenant Walter,
and about half-past seven he expired in my arms.

Before he died, in a few broken words he thanked Miss Herbey and
myself for the kindness we had shown him. A crumpled letter fell
from his hand, and in a voice that was scarcely audible from
weakness, he said,--

"It is my mother's letter: the last I had from her--she was
expecting me home; but she will never see me more. Oh, put it to
my lips--let me kiss it before I die. Mother! mother! Oh my
God!"

I placed the letter in his cold hand, and raised it to his lips;
his eye lighted for a moment; we heard the faint sound of a kiss,
and all was over!

CHAPTER XLI.

JANUARY 8th.--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 fowl a deed! Curtis looked around with anger
flashing In his eye; but all seemed as usual, and the silence was
only broken by a few groans of agony.

But there was no time to be lost; perhaps we were already
observed, and more horrible scenes might be likely to occur.
Curtis said a few short prayers, and we cast the body into the
sea. It sank immediately.

"They are feeding the sharks well, and no mistake," said a voice
behind me.

I turned round quickly, and found that it was Jynxtrop 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 foot.

"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 living one?"

I was at a loss to comprehend him, and, turning away, laid myself
down at the end of the raft.

Towards 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 amongst
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 just 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 attempt.

"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 again?"

"Oh! I had some very good bait last night," he said. I stared
at him in amazement. He steadily returned my gaze, but said
nothing.

"Have you none left?" at last I asked.

"Yes!" he almost whispered and left me without another word.

Our meal, meagre 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, of
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 any one else, remained
watching them himself. In the morning I went to ascertain what
success had attended his patience. It was scarcely light, and
with eager eyes he was peering down into the water. He had
neither seen nor heard me coming.

"Well, boatswain!" I said, touching him on the shoulder.

He turned round quickly.

"Those villainous sharks have eaten every morsel of my bait," he
said, in a desponding voice.

"And you have no more left?" I asked.

"No more," he said. Then grasping my arm he added, "and that
only shows me that it is no good doing things by halves."

The truth flashed upon me at once, and I laid my hand upon his
mouth. Poor Walter!

CHAPTER XLII.

JANUARY 9th and 10th.--On the 9th the wind dropped, and there was
a dead calm; not a ripple disturbed the surface of the long
undulations as they rose and fell beneath us; and if it were not
for the slight current which is carrying us we know not whither,
the raft would be absolutely stationary.

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 liquid sphere!

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. O 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 towards 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
endeavoured 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 efforts on our part to
save him would be of no avail. The vomiting, however, had for
the time relieved him, and he was able to speak.

Curtis and I both implored him to let us know what he had taken
to bring about consequences so serious. His reply fell upon us
as a startling blow.

The ill fated wretch had stolen several pints of water from the
barrel that had been untouched, and that water had poisoned him!

CHAPTER XLIII.

JANUARY 11th to 14th.--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 100deg., 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 vapour or to ice!
its particles of salt extracted, it would be available for drink.
But no! we have no appliances, and we must suffer on.

At the risk of being devoured by the sharks, the boatswain and
two sailors took a morning bath, and as their plunge seemed to
refresh them, I and three of my companions resolved to follow
their example. We had never learnt 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 look-out 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 ear,--

"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 is 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, and
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
track."

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 were 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 fire-arms
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 colour 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 the range of sight.

"My friends," said Curtis, "we must make a fire; it is our last
and only chance."

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 upwards 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 tack, and was moving slowly to
the east. Three hours later and the keenest eye could not have
discerned her top-sails above the horizon.

CHAPTER XLIV.

JANUARY 15th.--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 have eaten nothing even Andre Letourneur finished
yesterday the last morsel of the biscuit which his sorrowful and
self-denying father had entrusted to my charge.

Jynxtrop 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 close up
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 sepulchres, which ere
long might swallow up our miserable carcases; yet, withal, I
profess that my feelings were rather those of fascination than of
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 round the head of the hammer. After
testing the strength of his line, and reassuring-himself that it
was fastened firmly both to the hammer and to the raft, the
boatswain lowered it into the water.

The sea was quite transparent, and any object was clearly visible
to a depth of two hundred feet below the surface. Leaning over
the low parapet of the raft we looked on in breathless silence,
as the scarlet rag, distinct as it was against the blue mass of
water, made its slow descent. But one by one the sharks seemed
to disappear, They could not, however, have gone far away, and it
was not likely that anything in the shape of bait dropped near
them would long escape their keen voracity.

Suddenly, without speaking, the boatswain raised his hand and
pointed to a dark mass skimming along the surface of the water,
and making straight in our direction. It was a shark, certainly
not less than twelve feet long. As soon as the creature was
about four fathoms from the raft, the boatswain gently drew in
his line until the whirl was in such a position that the shark
must cross right over it; at the same time he shook the line a
little, that he might give the whirl the appearance, if he could,
of being something alive and moving. As the creature came near,
my heart beat violently; I could see its eyes flashing above
the waves; and its gaping jaws, as it turned half over on its
back, exhibited long rows of pointed teeth.

I know not who it was, but some one at that moment uttered an
involuntary cry of horror. The shark came to a standstill,
turned about, and escaped quite out of sight. The boatswain was
pale with anger.

"The first man who speaks," he said, "I will kill him on the
spot."

Again he applied himself to his task. The whirl again was
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 that 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 carcase of the shark writhing
convulsively amidst 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 his hatchet, ready to
despatch the brute the moment if should be landed on the raft. A
short sharp snap was heard. The shark had closed its jaws, and
bitten through the wooden handle of the hammer. Another moment
and it had turned round and was completely gone.

A howl of despair burst from all our lips. All the labour 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 cannot 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.

CHAPTER XLV.

JANUARY 16th.--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 vapours gathered on the horizon, and there was a look as if
it were raining all around. Longing eyes and gasping mouths
turned involuntarily towards the clouds, and M. Letourneur, on
bended knee, was raising his hands, as it might be in
supplication to the relentless skies.

It was eleven o'clock in the morning. I listened for distant
rumblings which might announce an approaching storm, but although
the vapours 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
grey tint; in fact, we were enveloped in an ordinary fog. But
was it not still possible that this fog might turn to rain?

Happily this hope was destined to be realized; for in a very
short time, Dowlas, with a shout of delight, declared that rain
was actually coming; and sure enough, not half a mile from the
raft, the dark parallel streaks against the sky testified that
there at least the 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 towards us, yet we could
not suppress our trepidation lest it; should exhaust itself
before it reached us.

But no: very soon large heavy drops began to fall, and the
storm-cloud, passing over our heads, was outpouring its contents
upon us. The shower, however, was very transient; already a
bright streak of light along the horizon marked the limit of the
cloud and warned us that we must be quick to make the most of
what it had to give us. Curtis had placed the broken barrel in
the position that was most exposed, and every sail was spread out
to the fullest extent our dimensions would allow.

We all laid ourselves down flat upon our backs and kept our
mouths wide open. The rain splashed into my face, wetted my
lips, and trickled down my throat. Never can I describe the
ecstasy with which I imbibed that renovating moisture. The
parched and swollen glands relaxed, I breathed afresh, and my
whole being seemed revived with a strange and requickened life.

The rain lasted about twenty minutes, when the cloud, still 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 the 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.

CHAPTER XLVI.

JANUARY 17th.--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, whilst for getting food there appeared no chance; and,
as we knew that nothing could compensate for the lack of
nutritive matter, we were soon all cast down again. Shocking to
confess, it would be untrue to deny that we surveyed each other
with the eye of an eager longing; and I need hardly explain to
what a degree of savageness the one idea that haunted us had
reduced our feelings.

Ever since the storm-cloud brought us the too transient shower
the sky has been tolerably clear, and although at that time the
wind had slightly freshened, it has since dropped, and the sail
hangs idly against our mast. Except for the trifling relief it
brings by modifying the temperature we care little now for any
breeze. Ignorant as we are as to what quarter of the Atlantic we
have been carried by the currents, it matters very little to us
from what direction the wind may blow if only it would bring, in
rain or dew, the moisture of which we are so dreadfully in need.

The moon was entering her last quarter, so that it was dark till
nearly midnight, and the stars were misty, not glowing with that
lustre which is so often characteristic of cool nights. Half
frantic with that sense of hunger which invariably returns with
redoubled vigour at the close of every day, I threw myself, in a
kind of frenzy, upon a bundle of sails that was lying on the
starboard of the raft, and leaning over, I tried to get some
measure of relief by inhaling the moist coolness that rarely
fails to circulate just above the water. My brain was haunted by
the most horrible nightmares; not that I suppose I was in any way
more distressed than my companions, who were lying in their usual
places, vainly endeavouring 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 half brought
me to myself. Was I dreaming, or was there not really some
unaccustomed odour 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 savoury puff induced me to take
several long inhalations. Suddenly, the truth seemed to dash
across my mind. "Surely," I muttered to myself "this must be
cooked meat that I can smell."

Again and again I sniffed and became more convinced than ever
that my senses were not deceiving me. But from what part of the
raft could the smell proceed? I rose to my knees, and having
satisfied myself that the odour 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 the 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 provision from the wreck, upon which he had been
subsisting ever since. The steward had provided for himself,
whilst all around him were dying of starvation. Detestable
wretch! This accounts for the inconsistency of his well-to-do
looks and his pitiable groans. Vile hypocrite!

Yet why, it struck me, should I complain? Was not I reaping the
benefit of that secret store that he, for himself, had saved?

But Hobart had no idea of allowing me the peaceable possession of
what he held to be his own. He made a dash at the fragment of
bacon, and seemed determined to wrest it from my grasp. We
struggled with each other, but although our wrestling was very
violent, it was very noiseless. 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 it gurgled
again, I held him down until, in rapid mouthfuls, I had swallowed
up 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!

CHAPTER XLVII.

JANUARY 18th.--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 meagre 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 laboured 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 full 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 spark 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, whilst 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 amongst 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 sea-water in the
sun; "and then," he added, "we can salt down the rest."

The boatswain assented to what the carpenter had said, and
probably the suggestion was adopted.

Silence, the most profound, now reigns upon the raft. I presume
that nearly all have gone to sleep. One thing I do know, that
they are no longer hungry!

CHAPTER XLVIII.

JANUARY 19th.--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, towards morning, was disturbed by hearing an angry
clamour going on outside the tent; it aroused M. Letourneur,
Andre and Miss Herbey, as much as myself, and we were anxious to
ascertain the cause of the tumult.

The boatswain, Dowlas, and all the sailors were storming at each
other in frightful rage; and Curtis, who had come forward from
the stern, was vainly endeavouring 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 another.

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 fruitless.

"Can YOU tell us," said the boatswain, coming up to me, "who is
the thief?"

"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 he
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 endeavouring 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
a 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 carcase 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.

CHAPTER XLIX.

JANUARY 20th to 22nd.--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.
Jynxtrop the negro went raving mad. Curtis and several of the
men tried their utmost to control him, but in spite of everything
he broke loose, and tore up and down the raft, uttering fearful
yells. He had gained possession of a handspike, and rushed upon
us all with the ferocity of an infuriated tiger; how we contrived
to escape mischief from his attacks, I know not. All at once, by
one of those unaccountable impulses of madness, his rage turned
against himself. With his teeth and nails he gnawed and tore
away at his own flesh; dashing the blood into our faces, he
shrieked out with a demoniacal grin, "Drink, drink!" and
flinging us gory morsels, kept saying "Eat, eat!" In the midst
of his insane shrieks he made a sudden pause, then dashing back
again from the stern to the front, he made a bound and
disappeared beneath the waves.

Falsten, Dowlas, and the boatswain, made a rush that at least
they might secure the body; but it was too late; all that they
could see was a crimson circle in the water, and some huge sharks
disporting themselves around the spot.

CHAPTER L.

JANUARY 23rd.--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 north-east. 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 amongst
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 any one 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 tongue
and swollen lips can pronounce are almost unintelligible. Wasted
and bloodless, we are no longer human beings; we are spectres.

CHAPTER LI.

JANUARY 24th.--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
westwards, that is to say, towards the land.

To-day the breeze has dropped entirely, but the heavy swell is
still upon the sea, and is an unquestionable sign that a tempest
has been raging at no great distance. The raft labours 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 Jynxtrop'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 despair.

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 nor entertain one sanguine thought;
and there I lay, waiting, nay, longing for death.

How many hours passed away thus I cannot tell, but after a time a
loud peal of laughter burst upon my ear Some one 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,
whisky, and, above all water! Stumbling at every step, and
singing in a cracked, discordant voice, he staggered about
amongst 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 Jynxtrop, 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.

CHAPTER LII.

JANUARY 25th.--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 Jynxtrop 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.

Towards morning I woke from my sleep, if the languid stupour 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 grey fog still hung heavily over the ocean, but the sun
was evidently shining above the mist, and would, in course of
time, dispel the vapour. Towards seven o'clock I fancied I heard
the cries of birds above my head. The sound was repeated three
times, and as I went up to the captain to ask him about it, I
heard him mutter to himself,--

"Birds! why, that looks as if land were not far off."

But although Curtis might still cling to the hope of reaching
land, I knew not what it was to have one sanguine thought. For
me there was neither continent nor island; the world was one
fluid sphere, uniform, monotonous, as in the most primitive
period of its formation. Nevertheless it must be owned that it
was with a certain amount of impatience that I awaited the rising
of the mist, for I was anxious to shake off the phantom fallacies
that Curtis's words had suggested to my mind.

Not till eleven o'clock did the fog begin to break, and as it
rolled in heavy folds along the surface of the water, I could
every now and then catch glimpses of a clear blue sky beyond.
Fierce sunbeams pierced the cloud-rifts, scorching and burning
our bodies like red-hot iron; but it was only above our heads
that there was any sunlight to condense the vapour; the horizon
was still quite invisible. There was no wind, and for half an
hour longer the fog hung heavily round the raft; whilst 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
opened 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. Towards 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 would 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 endeavoured to
restrain me. But all in vain, my mind was finally made up.

I should have like 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 bad
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 vigour. 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.

CHAPTER LIII.

JANUARY 26th.--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 favour 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 favour, 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 postponing the fatal lottery. There was not one of us that
clung in the least to life, and we knew that at the worst,
whoever should be doomed to die, would only precede the rest by a
few days, or even hours. All that we desired was just once to
slake our raging thirst and moderate our gnawing hunger.

How all the names found their way to the bottom of a hat I cannot
tell. Very likely Falsten wrote them upon a leaf torn from his
memorandum-book. But be that as it may, the eleven names were
there, and it was unanimously agreed that the last name drawn
should be the victim.

But who would draw the names? There was hesitation for a moment;
then, "I will," said a voice behind me. Turning round, I beheld
M. Letourneur standing with outstretched hand, and with his long
white hair falling over his thin livid face that was almost
sublime in its calmness. I divined at once the reason of this
voluntary offer; I knew that it was the father's devotion in
self-sacrifice that led him to undertake the office.

"As soon as you please," said the boatswain, and handed him the
hat.

M. Letourneur proceeded to draw out the folded strips of paper
one by one, and after reading out aloud the name upon it, handed
it to its owner.

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 favour.

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 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 of 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, marvellous for his age, unfolded
it slowly, and read the name of Dowlas. The carpenter gave a
yell of relief as he heard the word.

M. Letourneur took the last bit of paper from the hat, and
without looking at it, tore it to pieces. But, unperceived by
all but myself, one little fragment flew into a corner of the
raft. I crawled towards 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 towards me, snatched
the paper from my hands, and flung it into the sea.

CHAPTER LIV.

JANUARY 26th.--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 he was 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, towards 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 super-natural 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 tomorrow," and threw down
his hatchet.

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 tomorrow. 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 afterwards, when I was alone with him, M. Letourneur
whispered in my ear,--

"Mr. Kazallon, I commend my boy to your care, and mark you, he
must never know--"

His voice was choked with tears, and he could not finish his
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 sea.

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.

CHAPTER LV.

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