Fortunately, although the store-room has been consider- ably exposed to the heat, its contents are not very seriously damaged, and all the barrels of water and the greater part of the provisions are quite intact. The stock of spare sails, which had been packed away in front, is also free from in- jury. The wind has dropped considerably since the early morning, and the swell in the sea is far less heavy. On the whole our spirits are reviving and we begin to think we may yet find a way out of our troubles.
M. Letourneur, his son, and I, have just had a long con- versation about the ship's officers. We consider their con- duct, under the late trying circumstances, to have been most exemplary, and their courage, energy, and endurance to have been beyond all praise. Lieutenant Walter, the boat- swain, and Dowlas the carpenter have all alike distinguished themselves, and made us feel that they are men to be relied on. As for Curtis, words can scarcely be found to express our admiration of his character; he is the same as he has ever been, the very life of his crew, cheering them on by word or gesture; finding an expedient for every difficulty, and always foremost in every action.
The tide turned at seven this morning, and by eleven all the rocks were submerged, none of them being visible ex- cept the cluster of those which formed the rim of a small and almost circular basin from 230 to 300 feet in diameter, in the north angle of which the ship is lying. As the tide rose the white breakers disappeared, and the sea, fortunately for the Chancellor, was pretty calm; otherwise the dashing of the waves against her sides, as she lies motionless, might have been attended by serious consequences.
As might be supposed, the height of the water in the hold increased with the tide from five feet to nine; but this was rather a matter of congratulation, inasmuch as it sufficed to inundate another layer of cotton.
At half-past eleven the sun, which had been behind the clouds since ten o'clock, broke forth brightly. The captain, who had already in the morning been able to calculate an horary angle, now prepared to take the meridian altitude, and succeeded at midday in making his observation most satisfactorily. After retiring for a short time to calculate the result, he returned to the poop and announced that we are in lat. 18 deg. 5' N. and long. 45 deg. 53' W., but that the reef on which we are aground is not marked on the charts. The only explanation that can be given for the omission is that the islet must be of recent formation, and has been caused by some subterranean volcanic disturbance. But whatever may be the solution of the mystery, here we are 800 miles from land; for such, on consulting the map, we find to be the actual distance to the coast of Guiana, which is the near- est shore. Such is the position to which we have been brought, in the first place, by Huntly's senseless obstinacy, and, secondly, by the furious northwest gale.
Yet, after all, the captain's communication does not dis- hearten us. As I said before, our spirits are reviving. We have escaped the peril of fire; the fear of explosion is past and gone: and oblivious of the fact that the ship with a hold full of water is only too likely to founder when she puts out to sea, we feel a confidence in the future that for- bids us to despond.
Meanwhile Curtis prepares to do all that common sense demands. He proposes, when the fire is quite extinguished, to throw overboard the whole, or the greater portion of the cargo, including, of course, the picrate; he will next plug up the leak, and then, with a lightened ship, he will take ad- vantage of the first high tide to quit the reef as speedily as possible.
CHAPTER XVII M. LETOURNEUR IS PESSIMISTIC
OCTOBER 30. -- Once again I talked to M. Letourneur about our situation, and endeavored to animate him with the hope that we should not be detained for long in our present pre- dicament; but he could not be brought to take a very san- guine view of our prospects.