The Survivors of the Chancellor
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enemy than as a hidden one."
Falsten and I agreed with what he said, and I pointed out
to him that he had quite overlooked the fact of there being
thirty pounds of explosive matter in the hold.
"No," he gravely replied, "I have not forgotten it, but it
is a circumstance of which I do not trust myself to think.
I dare not run the risk of admitting air into the hold by
going down to search for the powder, and yet I know not at
what moment it may explode. No; it is a matter that I can-
not take at all into my reckoning; it must remain in higher
hands than mine."
We bowed our heads in a silence which was solemn. In
the present state of the weather, immediate flight was, we
After considerable pause, Mr. Falsten, as calmly as
though he were delivering some philosophic dogma, quietly
"The explosion, if I may use the formula of science, is
not necessary, but contingent."
"But tell me, Mr. Falsten," I asked, "is it possible for
picrate of potash to ignite without concussion?"
"Certainly it is," replied the engineer. "Under ordinary
circumstances, picrate of potash although not MORE inflam-
mable than common powder, yet possesses the SAME degree
We now prepared to go on deck. As we left the saloon,
in which we had been sitting, Curtis seized my hand.
"Oh, Mr. Kazallon," he exclaimed, "if you only knew
the bitterness of the agony I feel at seeing this fine vessel
doomed to be devoured by flames, and at being so powerless
to save her." Then quickly recovering himself, he continued:
"But I am forgetting myself; you, if no other, must know
what I am suffering. It is all over now," he said more
"Is our condition quite desperate?" I asked.
"It is just this," he answered deliberately, "we are over
a mine, and already the match has been applied to the train.
How long that train may be, 'tis not for me to say."
And with these words he left me.
The other passengers, in common with the crew, are still
in entire ignorance of the extremity of peril to which we are
exposed, although they are all aware that there is fire in the
hold. As soon as the fact was announced, Mr. Kear, after
communicating to Curtis his instructions that he thought he
should have the fire immediately extinguished, and intimat-
ing that he held him responsible for all contingencies that
might happen, retired to his cabin, where he has remained
ever since, fully occupied in collecting and packing together
the more cherished articles of his property and without the
semblance of a care or a thought for his unfortunate wife,
whose condition, in spite of her ludicrous complaints,
was truly pitiable. Miss Herbey, however, is unrelaxing in
her attentions, and the unremitted diligence with which
she fulfills her offices of duty, commands my highest ad-
OCTOBER 23. -- This morning, Captain Huntly sent for
Curtis into his cabin, and the mate has since made me ac-
quainted with what passed between them.
"Curtis," began the captain, his haggard eye betraying
only too plainly some mental derangement, "I am a sailor,
am I not?"
"Certainly, captain," was the prompt acquiescence of the
"I do not know how it is," continued the captain, "but
I seem bewildered; I can not recollect anything. Are we
not bound for Liverpool? Ah! yes! of course. And have
we kept a northeasterly direction since we left?"
"No, sir, according to your orders we have been sailing
southeast, and here we are in the tropics."
"And what is the name of the ship?"
"The Chancellor, sir."
"Yes, yes, the Chancellor, so it is. Well, Curtis, I really
can't take her back to the north. I hate the sea, the very
sight of it makes me ill, I would much rather not leave my
Curtis went on to tell me how he had tried to persuade him
that with a little time and care he would soon recover his
indisposition, and feel himself again; but the captain had in-
terrupted him by saying:
"Well, well; we shall see by-and-by; but for the present
you must take this for my positive order; you must, from
this time, at once take the command of the ship, and act
just as if I were not on board. Under present circum-
stances, I can do nothing. My brain is all in a whirl, you
can not tell what I am suffering;" and the unfortunate man
pressed both his hands convulsively against his forehead.
"I weighed the matter carefully for a moment," added
Curtis, "and seeing what his condition too truly was, I ac-
quiesced in all that he required and withdrew, promising him
that all his orders should be obeyed."
After hearing these particulars, I could not help remark-
ing how fortunate it was that the captain had resigned of
his own accord, for although he might not be actually in-
sane, it was very evident that his brain was in a very morbid
"I succeeded him at a very critical moment," said Curtis
thoughtfully; "but I shall endeavor to do my duty."
A short time afterward he sent for his boatswain and or-
dered him to assemble the crew at the foot of the main-mast.
As soon as the men were together, he addressed them very
calmly, but very firmly.
"My men," he said, "I have to tell you that Captain
Huntly, on account of the dangerous situation in which cir-
cumstances have placed us, and for other reasons known to
myself, has thought right to resign his command to me.
From this time forward, I am captain of this vessel."
Thus quietly and simply was the change effected, and we
have the satisfaction of knowing that the Chancellor is now
under the command of a conscientious, energetic man, who
will shirk nothing that he believes to be for our common
good. M. Letourneur, Andre, Mr. Falsten, and myself im-
mediately offered him our best wishes, in which Lieutenant
Walter and the boatswain most cordially joined.
The ship still holds her course southwest, and Curtis
crowds on all sail and makes as speedily as possible for the
nearest of the Lesser Antilles.
BETWEEN FIRE AND WATER
OCTOBER 24 to 29. -- For the last five days the sea has
been very heavy, and although the Chancellor sails with wind
and wave in her favor, yet her progress is considerably im-
peded. Here on board this veritable fire-ship I cannot help
contemplating with a longing eye this vast ocean that sur-
rounds us. The water supply should be all we need.
"Why not bore the deck?" I said to Curtis. "Why not
admit the water by tons into the hold? What could be the
harm? The fire would be quenched; and what would be
easier than to pump the water out again?"
"I have already told you, Mr. Kazallon," said Curtis,
"that the very moment we admit the air, the flames will rush
forth to the very top of the masts. No; we must have cour-
age and patience; we must wait. There is nothing whatever
to be done, except to close every aperture."
The fire continued to progress even more rapidly than we
had hitherto suspected. The heat gradually drove the pas-
sengers nearly all on deck, and the two stern cabins, lighted,
as I said, by their windows in the aft-board were the only
quarters below that were inhabitable. Of these Mrs. Kear
occupied one, and Curtis reserved the other for Ruby, who,
a raving maniac, had to be kept rigidly under restraint. I
went down occasionally to see him, but invariably found him
in a state of abject terror, uttering horrible shrieks, as
though possessed with the idea that he was being scorched
by the most excruciating heat.
Once or twice, too, I looked in upon the ex-captain. He
was always calm and spoke quite rationally on any subject
except his own profession; but in connection with that he
prated away the merest nonsense. He suffered greatly, but
steadily declined all my offers of attention, and pertina-
ciously refused to leave his cabin.
To-day, an acrid, nauseating smoke made its way through
the panelings that partition off the quarters of the crew. At
once Curtis ordered the partition to be enveloped in wet tar-
paulin, but the fumes penetrated even this, and filled the
whole neighborhood of the ship's bows with a reeking vapor
that was positively stifling. As we listened, too, we could
hear a dull rumbling sound, but we were as mystified as ever
to comprehend where the air could have entered that was
evidently fanning the flames. Only too certainly, it was
now becoming a question not of days nor even of hours
before we must be prepared for the final catastrophe. The
sea was still running high, and escape by the boats was