How southerly our course has been is very apparent; for upon the night of the 11th we fairly entered upon that por- tion of the Atlantic which is known as the Sargasso Sea. An extensive tract of water is this, inclosed by the warm current of the Gulf Stream, and thickly covered with the wrack, called by the Spaniards "sargasso," the abundance of which so seriously impeded the progress of Columbus's vessel on his first voyage.
Each morning at daybreak the Atlantic has presented an aspect so remarkable, that at my solicitation, M. Letourneur and his son have ventured upon deck to witness the unusual spectacle. The squally gusts make the metal shrouds vibrate like harp-strings; and unless we were on our guard to keep our clothes wrapped tightly to us, they would have been torn off our backs in shreds. The scene presented to our eyes is one of strangest interest. The sea, carpeted thickly with masses of prolific fucus, is a vast unbroken plain of vegetation, through which the vessel makes her way as a plow. Long strips of seaweed caught up by the wind become entangled in the rigging, and hang between the masts in festoons of verdure; while others, varying from two to three hundred feet in length, twine themselves up to the very mast-head, from whence they float like streaming pennants. For many hours now, the Chancellor has been contending with this formidable accumulation of algae; her masts are circled with hydrophytes; her rigging is wreathed everywhere with creepers, fantastic as the untrammeled ten- drils of a vine, and as she works her arduous course, there are times when I can only compare her to an animated grove of verdure making its mysterious way over some illimitable prairie.
CHAPTER VII VOICES IN THE NIGHT
OCTOBER 14. -- At last we are free from the sea of vegeta- tion, the boisterous gale has moderated into a steady breeze, the sun is shining brightly, the weather is warm and genial, and thus, two reefs in her top-sails, briskly and merrily sails the Chancellor.
Under conditions so favorable, we have been able to take the ship's bearings: our latitude, we find, is 21 deg. 33' N., our longitude, 50 deg. 17' W.
Incomprehensible altogether is the conduct of Captain Huntly. Here we are, already more than ten degrees south of the point from which we started, and yet still we are per- sistently following a southeasterly course! I cannot bring myself to the conclusion that the man is mad. I have had various conversations with him: he has always spoken rationally and sensibly. He shows no tokens of insanity. Perhaps his case is one of those in which insanity is partial, and where the mania is of a character which extends only to the matters connected with his profession. Yet it is un- accountable.
I can get nothing out of Curtis; he listens coldly when- ever I allude to the subject, and only repeats what he has said before, that nothing short of an overt act of madness on the part of the captain could induce him to supersede the captain's authority, and that the imminent peril of the ship could alone justify him in taking so decided a measure.
Last evening I went to my cabin about eight o'clock, and after an hour's reading by the light of my cabin-lamp, I retired to my berth and was soon asleep. Some hours later I was aroused by an unaccustomed noise on deck. There were heavy footsteps hurrying to and fro, and the voices of the men were loud and eager, as if the crew were agitated by some strange disturbance. My first impression was, that some tacking had been ordered which rendered it needful to fathom the yards; but the vessel continuing to lie to star- board convinced me that this was not the origin of the com- motion. I was curious to know the truth, and made all haste I could to go on deck; but before I was ready, the noise had ceased. I heard Captain Huntly return to his cabin, and accordingly I retired again to my own berth. Whatever may have been the meaning of the maneuver, I cannot tell; it did not seem to result in any improvement in the ship's pace; still it must be owned there was not much wind to speed us along.