The night was dark, but the captain carried all the sail he could, eager to take every possible advantage of the wind, which was freshening considerably. If he could have sighted a ship he would have made signals of distress, and would not have hesitated to transfer the passengers, and even have allowed the crew to follow, if they were ready to forsake him; for himself his mind was made up -- he should remain on board the Chancellor until she foundered beneath his feet. No sail, however, hove in sight; consequently escape by such means was out of our power.
During the night the canvas covering yielded to the pres- sure of the waves, and this morning, after taking the sound- ing, the boatswain could not suppress an oath when he an- nounced, "Six feet of water in the hold!"
The ship, then, was filling once again, and already had sunk considerably below her previous water-line. With aching arms and bleeding hands we worked harder than ever at the pumps, and Curtis makes those who are not pumping form a line and pass buckets, with all the speed they can, from hand to hand.
But all in vain! At half-past eight more water is re- ported in the hold, and some of the sailors, overcome by de- spair, refuse to work one minute longer.
The first to abandon his post was Owen, a man whom I have mentioned before as exhibiting something of a mu- tinous spirit. He is about forty years of age, and altogether unprepossessing in appearance; his face is bare, with the exception of a reddish beard, which terminates in a point; his forehead is furrowed with sinister looking wrinkles, his lips curl inward, and his ears protrude, while his bleared and bloodshot eyes are encircled with thick red rings.
Among the five or six other men who had struck work I noticed Jynxstrop, the cook, who evidently shared all Owen's ill-feelings.
Twice did Curtis order the men back to the pumps, and twice did Owen, acting as spokesman for the rest, refuse; and when Curtis made a step forward as though to approach him, he said savagely:
"I advise you not to touch me," and walked away to the forecastle.
Curtis descended to his cabin, and almost immediately re- turned with a loaded revolver in his hand.
For a moment Owen surveyed the captain with a frown of defiance; but at a sign from Jynxstrop he seemed to recollect himself, and, with the remainder of the men, he returned to his work.
CHAPTER XXIV CURTIS RESOLVES TO ABANDON THE SHIP
DECEMBER 4. -- The first attempt at mutiny being thus happily suppressed, it is to be hoped that Curtis will succeed as well in future. An insubordinate crew would render us powerless indeed.
Throughout the night the pumps were kept, without respite, steadily at work, but without producing the least sensible benefit. The ship became so water-logged and heavy that she hardly rose at all to the waves, which con- sequently often washed over the deck and contributed their part toward aggravating our case. Our situation was rapidly becoming as terrible as it had been when the fire was raging in the midst of us; and the prospect of being swallowed by the devouring billows was no less formidable than that of perishing in the flames.
Curtis kept the men up to the mark, and, willing or unwill- ing, they had no alternative but to work on as best they might; but in spite of all their efforts, the water perpetually rose, till, at length, the men in the hold who were passing the buckets found themselves immersed up to their waists, and were obliged to come on deck.
This morning, after a somewhat protracted consultation with Walter and the boatswain, Curtis resolved to abandon the ship. The only remaining boat was far too small to hold us all, and it would therefore be necessary to construct a raft that should carry those who could not find room in her. Dowlas, the carpenter, Mr. Falsten, and ten sailors were told off to put the raft in hand, the rest of the crew being ordered to continue their work assiduously at the pumps, until the time came and everything was ready for embarkation.