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The Survivors of the Chancellor by Jules Verne

Part 4 out of 4

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JANUARY 27th.--I did not close my eyes all night, and was keenly
alive to the faintest sounds, and every ripple of the water, and
every murmur of the waves, broke distinctly on my ear. One thing
I noticed and accepted as a happy omen; not a single shark now
lingered-round the raft. The waning moon rose at a quarter to
one, and through the feeble glimmer which she cast across the
ocean, many and many a time I fancied I caught sight of the
longed-for sail, lying only a few cables' lengths away.

But when morning came, the sun rose once again upon a desert
ocean, and my hopes began to fade. Neither ship nor shore had
appeared, and as the shocking hour of execution drew near, my
dreams of deliverance melted away; I shuddered in my very soul as
I was brought face to face with the stern reality. I dared not
look upon the victim, and whenever his eyes, so full of calmness
and resignation, met my own, I turned away my head. I felt
choked with horror, and my brain reeled as though I were
intoxicated.

It was now six o'clock, and all hope had vanished from my breast;
my heart beat rapidly, and a cold sweat of agony broke out all
over me. Curtis and the boatswain stood by the mast attentively
scanning the horizon. The boatswain's countenance was terrible
to look upon; one could see that although he would not forestall
the hour, he was determined not to wait a moment after it
arrived. As for the captain, it was impossible to tell what
really passed within his mind; his face was livid, and his whole
existence seemed concentrated in the exercise of his power of
vision. The sailors were crawling about the platform, with their
eyes gleaming, like wild beasts ready to pounce upon their
devoted prey.

I could no longer keep my place, and glided along to the front of
the raft. The boatswain was still standing intent on his watch,
but all of a sudden, in a voice that made me start he shouted,--

"Now then, time's up!" and followed by Dowlas, Burke, Flaypole,
and Sandon, ran to the back of the raft. As Dowlas'seized the
hatchet convulsively, Miss Herbey could not suppress a cry of
terror. Andre started to his feet.

"What are you going to do to my father?" he asked in accents
choked with emotion.

"My boy," said M. Letourneur, "the lot has fallen upon me, and I
must die!"

"Never!" shrieked Andre, throwing his arms about his father,
"They shall kill me first. It was I who threw Hobart's body into
the sea, and it is I who ought to die!"

But the words of the unhappy youth had no other effect than to
increase the fury of the men who were so staunchly bent upon
their bloody purpose.

"Come, come, no more fuss," said Dowlas, as he tore the young man
away from his father's embrace.

Andre fell upon his back, in which position two of the sailors
held him down so tightly that he could not move, whilst Burke and
Sandon carried off their victim to the front.

All this had taken place much more rapidly than I have been able
to describe it. I was transfixed with horror, and much as I
wished to throw myself between M. Letourneur and his
executioners, I seemed to be rooted to the spot where I was
standing.

Meantime the sailors had been taking off some of M. Letourneur's
clothes, and his neck and shoulders were already bare.

"Stop a moment!" he said in a tone in which was the ring of
indomitable courage. "Stop! I don't want to deprive you of your
ration; but I suppose you will not require to eat the whole of me
today."

The sailors, taken aback by his suggestion, stared at him with
amazement.

"There are ten of you," he went on. "My two arms will give you
each a meal; cut them off for to-day, and to-morrow you shall
have the rest of me."

"Agreed!" cried Dowlas; and as M. Letourneur held out his bare
arms, quick as lightning the carpenter raised his hatchet.

Curtis and I could bear this scene no longer; whilst we were
alive to prevent it, this butchery should not be permitted, and
we rushed forwards simultaneously to snatch the victim from his
murderers. A furious struggle ensued, and in the midst of the
MELEE I was seized by one of the sailors, and hurled violently
into the sea.

Closing my lips, I tried to die of suffocation in the water; but
in spite of myself, my mouth opened, and a few drops trickled
down my throat.

Merciful Heaven! the water was fresh!

CHAPTER LVI.

JANUARY 27th CONTINUED.--A change came over me as if by miracle.
No longer had I any wish to die, and already Curtis, who had
heard my cries, was throwing me a rope. I seized it eagerly, and
was hauled up on to the raft, "Fresh water!" were the first
words I uttered.

"Fresh water?" cried Curtis, "why then, my friends, we are not
far from land!"

It was not too late; the blow had not been struck, and so the
victim had not yet fallen. Curtis and Andre (who had regained
his liberty) had fought with the cannibals, and it was just as
they were yielding to overpowering numbers that my voice had made
itself heard.

The struggle came to an end. As soon as the words "Fresh water"
had escaped my lips, I leaned over the side of the raft and
swallowed the life-giving liquid in greedy draughts. Miss Herbey
was the first to follow my example, but soon Curtis, Falsten, and
all the rest were on their knees and drinking eagerly, The rough
sailors seemed as if by a magic touch transformed back from
ravenous beasts to human beings, and I saw several of them raise
their hands to heaven in silent gratitude, Andre and his father
were the last to drink.

"But where are we?" I asked at length.

"The land is there," said Curtis pointing towards the west.

We all stared at the captain as though he were mocking us; no
land was in sight, and the raft, just as ever, was the centre of
a watery waste. Yet our senses had not deceived us the water we
had been drinking was perfectly fresh.

"Yes," repeated the captain, "land is certainly there, not more
than twenty miles to leeward."

"What land?" inquired the boatswain.

"South America," answered Curtis, "and near the Amazon; no other
river has a current strong enough to freshen the ocean twenty
miles from shore!"

CHAPTER LVII.

JANUARY 27th CONTINUED.--Curtis, no doubt was right The discharge
from the mouth of the Amazon is enormously large, but we had
probably drifted into the only spot in the Atlantic where we
could find fresh water so far from land. Yet land, undoubtedly
was there, and the breeze was carrying us onwards slowly but
surely to our deliverance.

Miss Herbey's voice was heard pouring out fervent praise to
Heaven, and we were all glad to unite our thanksgivings with
hers. Then the whole of us (with the exception of Andre and his
father, who remained by themselves together at the stern)
clustered in a group, and kept our expectant gaze upon the
horizon.

We had not long to wait. Before an hour had passed Curtis,
leaped in ecstasy and raised the joyous shout of "Land ahoy!"

* * * *

My journal has come to a close.

I have only to relate, as briefly as possible, the circumstances
that finally brought us to our destination.

A few hours after we first sighted land the raft was off Cape
Magoari, on the Island of Marajo, and was observed by some
fishermen who, with kind-hearted alacrity picked us up, and
tended us most carefully. They conveyed us to Para, where we
became the objects of unbounded sympathy.

The raft was brought to land in lat. 0deg. 12min. N., so that
since we abandoned the "Chancellor" we had drifted at least
fifteen degrees to the south-west. Except for the influence of
the Gulf Stream we must have been carried far, far to the south,
and in that case we should never have reached the mouth of the
Amazon, and must inevitably have been lost.

Of the thirty-two souls--nine passengers, and twenty-three
seamen--who left Charleston on board the ship, only five
passengers and six seamen remain. Eleven of us alone survive.

An official account of our rescue was drawn up by the Brazilian
authorities. Those who signed were Miss Herbey, J. R. Kazallon,
M. Letourneur, Andre Letourneur, Mr. Falsten, the boatswain,
Dowlas, Burke, Flaypole, Sandon, and last, though not least,

"Robert Curtis, captain."

At Para we soon found facilities for continuing our homeward
route. A vessel took us to Cayenne, where we secured a passage
on board one of the steamers of the French Transatlantic
Aspinwall line, the "Ville de St. Nazaire," which conveyed us to
Europe.

After all the dangers and privations which we have undergone
together, it is scarcely necessary to say that there has arisen
between the surviving passengers of the "Chancellor" a bond of
friendship too indissoluble, I believe, for either time or
circumstance to destroy; Curtis must ever remain the honoured and
valued friend of those whose welfare he consulted so faithfully
in their misfortunes; his conduct was beyond all praise

When we were fairly on our homeward way, Miss Herbey by chance
intimated to us her intention of retiring from the world and
devoting the remainder of her life to the care of the sick and
suffering.

"Then why not come and look after my son?" said M. Letourneur,
adding, "he is an invalid, and be requires, as he deserves, the
best of nursing."

Miss Herbey, after some deliberation, consented to become a
member of their family, and finds in M. Letourneur a father, and
in Andre a brother. A brother, I say; but may we not hope that
she may be united by a dearer and a closer tie, and that the
noble-hearted girl may experience the happiness that so richly
she deserves?

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