To-day, the 20th, the temperature is as high as ever, and the raft still motionless. The rays of the sun penetrate even through the shelter of our tent, where we sit literally gasp- ing with the heat. The impatience with which we awaited the moment when the boatswain should dole out our meager allowance of water, and the eagerness with which those lukewarm drops were swallowed, can only be realized by those who for themselves have endured the agonies of thirst.
Lieutenant Walter suffers more than any of us from the scarcity of water, and I noticed that Miss Herbey reserved almost the whole of her own share for his use. Kind and compassionate as ever, the young girl does all that lies in her power to relieve the poor fellow's sufferings.
"Mr. Kazallon," she said to me this morning, "that young man gets manifestly weaker every day."
"Yes, Miss Herbey," I replied, "and how sorrowful it is that we can do nothing for him, absolutely nothing."
"Hush!" she said, with her wonted consideration, "per- haps he will hear what we are saying."
And then she sat down near the edge of the raft, where, with her head resting on her hands, she remained lost in thought.
An incident sufficiently unpleasant occurred to-day. For nearly an hour Owen, Flaypole, Burke and Jynxstrop had been engaged in close conversation and, although their voices were low, their gestures had betrayed that they were animated by some strong excitement. At the conclusion of the colloquy Owen got up and walked deliberately to the quarter of the raft that has been reserved for the use of the passengers.
"Where are you off to now, Owen?" said the boatswain.
"That's my business," said the man insolently, and pur- sued his course.
The boatswain was about to stop him, but before he could interfere Curtis was standing and looking Owen steadily in the face.
"Ah, captain, I've got a word from my mates to say to you," he said, with all the effrontery imaginable.
"Say on, then," said the captain coolly.
"We should like to know about that little keg of brandy. Is it being kept for the porpoises or the officers?"
Finding that he obtained no reply, he went on:
"Look here, captain, what we want is to have our grog served out every morning as usual."
"Then you certainly will not," said the captain.
"What! what!" exclaimed Owen, "don't you mean to let us have our grog?"
"Once and for all, no."
For a moment, with a malicious grin upon his lips, Owen stood confronting the captain; then, as though thinking bet- ter of himself, he turned round and rejoined his companions, who were still talking together in an undertone.
When I was afterward discussing the matter with Curtis, I asked him whether he was sure he had done right in re- fusing the brandy.
"Right!" he cried, "to be sure I have. Allow those men to have brandy! I would throw it all overboard first."
CHAPTER XXXIV A SQUALL
DECEMBER 21. -- No further disturbance has taken place among the men. For a few hours the fish appeared again, and we caught a great many of them, and stored them away in an empty barrel. This addition to our stock of pro- visions makes us hope that food, at least, will not fail us.
Usually the nights in the tropics are cool, but to-day, as the evening drew on, the wonted freshness did not return, but the air remained stifling and oppressive, while heavy masses of vapor hung over the water.
There was no moonlight; there would be a new moon at half-past one in the morning, but the night was singularly dark, except for dazzling flashes of summer lightning that from time to time illuminated the horizon far and wide. There was, however, no answering roll of thunder, and the silence of the atmosphere seemed almost awful.
For a couple of hours, in the vain hope of catching a breath of air, Miss Herbey, Andre Letourneur, and I, sat watching the imposing struggle of the electric vapors. The clouds appeared like embattled turrets crested with flame, and the very sailors, coarse-minded men as they were, seemed struck with the grandeur of the spectacle, and re- garded attentively, though with an anxious eye, the pre- liminary tokens of a coming storm.