The Survivors of the Chancellor
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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
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 re-
peated 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 sus-
pect 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
"No! no! no! of that water I will not touch a drop."
I supposed he did not understand what we were going to
do, and endeavored to explain; but all in vain; he persisted
in refusing to taste the water in the second barrel. I then
tried to induce vomiting by tickling his uvula, and he brought
off some bluish secretion from his stomach, the character of
which confirmed our previous suspicions -- that he had been
poisoned by oxide of copper. We now felt convinced that
any effort on our part to save him would be of no avail.
The vomiting, however, had for the time relieved him, and
he was able to speak.
Curtis and I both implored him to let us know what he
had taken to bring about consequences so serious. His reply
fell upon us as a startling blow.
The ill-fated wretch had stolen several pints of water from
the barrel that had been untouched, and that water had
JANUARY 11 to 14. -- Owen's convulsions returned with in-
creased 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 re-
served 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 evi-
dent -- the barrel was poisoned, and of water we had not a
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 can-
Throughout the 12th no drain of moisture crossed our
lips, and not a cloud arose to warrant the expectation of a
passing shower; in the shade, if shade it might be called, the
thermometer would have registered at least 100 deg., and per-
haps considerably more.
No change next day. The salt water began to chafe my
legs, but although the smarting was at times severe, it was an
inconvenience to which I gave little heed; others who had
suffered from the same trouble had become no worse. Oh!
if this water that surrounds us could be reduced to vapor
or to ice! its particles of salt extracted, it would be available
for drink. But no! we have no appliances, and we must
At the risk of being devoured by the sharks, the boat-
swain and two sailors took a morning bath, and as their
plunge seemed to freshen them, I and three of my com-
panions resolved to follow their example. We had never
learned to swim, and had to be fastened to the end of a rope
and lowered into the water, while Curtis, during the half
hour of our bath, kept a sharp lookout to give warning of
any danger from approaching sharks. No recommenda-
tion, 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
"Look behind to larboard," he continued in an undertone.
Affecting an indifference which I was far from feeling, I
cast an anxious glance to that quarter of the horizon of
which he spoke, and there, although mine was not a nautical
eye, I could plainly distinguish the outline of a ship under
Almost at the same moment the boatswain who happened
to be looking in the same direction, raised the cry, "Ship
Whether it was that no one believed it, or whether all
energies were exhausted, certain it is that the announcement
produced none of the effects that might have been expected.
Not a soul exhibited the slightest emotion, and it was only
when the boatswain had several times sung out his tidings
that all eyes turned to the horizon. There, most undeniably,
was the ship, but the question rose at once to the minds of
all, and to the lips of many, "Would she see us?"
The sailors immediately began discussing the build of the
vessel, and made all sorts of conjectures as to the direction
she was taking. Curtis was far more deliberate in his judg-
ment. After examining her attentively for some time, he
said, "She is a brig running close upon the wind, on the star-
board tack. If she keeps her course for a couple of hours,
she will come right athwart our tracks."
A couple of hours! The words sounded to our ears like
a couple of centuries. The ship might change her course
at any moment; closely trimmed as she was, it was very
probable that she was only tacking about to catch the wind,
in which case, as soon as she felt a breeze, she would résumé
her larboard tack and make away again. On the other hand,
if she was really sailing with the wind, she would come
nearer to us, and there would be good ground for hope.
Meantime, no exertion must be spared, and no means left
untried, to make our position known. The brig was about
twelve miles to the east of us, so that it was out of the ques-
tion to think of any cries of ours being overheard; but Curtis
gave directions that every possible signal should be made.
We had no firearms by which we could attract attention, and
nothing else occurred to us beyond hoisting a flag of distress.
Miss Herbey's red shawl, as being of a color most distin-
guishable 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 drown-
ing 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 di-
rection 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
At half past twelve the captain and the boatswain con-
sidered 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