As far as we can estimate we have somewhere about 500 lbs. of meat and about the same quantity of biscuit. To make this last for three months we ought not to consume very much more than 5 lbs. a day of each, which, when divided among eighteen people, will make the daily ration 5 oz. of meat and 5 oz. of biscuit for each person. Of water we have certainly not more than 200 gallons, but by reduc- ing each person's allowance to a pint a day, we hope to eke out that, too, over the space of three months.

It is arranged that the food shall be distributed under the boatswain's superintendence every morning at ten o'clock. Each person will then receive his allowance of meat and bis- cuit, which may be eaten when and how he pleases. The water will be given out twice a day -- at ten in the morn- ing and six in the evening; but as the only drinking-vessels in our possession are the teakettle and the old Irishman's tin pot, the water has to be consumed immediately on distribu- tion. As for the brandy, of which there are only five gallons, it will be doled out with the strictest limitation, and no one will be allowed to touch it except with the captain's express permission.

I should not forget that there are two sources from which we may hope to increase our store. First, any rain that may fall will add to our supply of water, and two empty barrels have been placed ready to receive it; secondly, we hope to do something in the way of fishing, and the sailors have already begun to prepare some lines.

All have mutually agreed to abide by the rules that have been laid down, for all are fully aware that by nothing but the most precise regimen can we hope to avert the horrors of famine, and forewarned by the fate of many who in similar circumstances have miserably perished, we are determined to do all that prudence can suggest for hus- banding our stores.

CHAPTER XXXII WE CATCH A SUPPLY OF FISH

DECEMBER 8 to 17. -- When night came we wrapped our- selves in our sails. For my own part, worn out with the fatigue of the long watch in the top-mast, I slept for several hours; M. Letourneur and Andre did the same, and Miss Herbey obtained sufficient rest to relieve the tired expression that her countenance had lately being wearing. The night passed quietly. As the raft was not very heavily laden the waves did not break over it at all, and we were consequently able to keep ourselves perfectly dry. To say the truth, it was far better for us that the sea should remain somewhat boisterous, for any diminution in the swell of the waves would indicate that the wind had dropped, and it was with a feeling of regret that when the morning came I had to note down "weather calm" in my journal.

In these low latitudes the heat in the day-time is so in- tense, and the sun burns with such an incessant glare, that the entire atmosphere becomes pervaded with a glowing vapor. The wind, too, blows only in fitful gusts, and through long intervals of perfect calm the sails flap idly and uselessly against the mast. Curtis and the boatswain, how- ever, are of opinion that we are not entirely dependent on the wind. Certain indications, which a sailor's eye alone could detect, make them almost sure that we are being carried along by a westerly current, that flows at the rate of three or four miles an hour. If they are not mistaken, this is a circumstance that may materially assist our pro- gress, and at which we can hardly fail to rejoice, for the high temperature often makes our scanty allowance of water quite inadequate to allay our thirst.

But with all our hardships I must confess that our con- dition is far preferable to what it was when we were still clinging to the Chancellor. Here at least we have a com- paratively solid platform beneath our feet, and we are re- lieved from the incessant dread of being carried down with a foundering vessel. In the day time we can move about with a certain amount of freedom, discuss the weather, watch the sea, and examine our fishing-lines; while at night we can rest securely under the shelter of our sails.

Jules Verne
French Authors
All Pages of This Book