Until midnight we kept our seats upon the stern of the raft, while the lightning ever and again shed around us a livid glare similar to that produced by adding salt to lighted alcohol.
"Are you afraid of a storm. Miss Herbey?" said Andre to the girl.
"No, Mr. Andre, my feelings are always rather those of awe than of fear," she replied. "I consider a storm one of the sublimest phenomena that we can behold -- don't you think so too?"
"Yes, and especially when the thunder is pealing," he said; "that majestic rolling, far different to the sharp crash of artillery, rises and falls like the long-drawn notes of the grandest music, and I can safely say that the tones of the most accomplished artiste have never moved me like that in- comparable voice of nature."
"Rather a deep bass, though," I said, laughing.
"That may be," he answered; "but I wish we might hear it now, for this silent lightning is somewhat unexpressive."
"Never mind that, Andre," I said; "enjoy a storm when it comes, if you like, but pray don't wish for it."
"And why not?" said he; "a storm will bring us wind, you know."
"And water, too," added Miss Herbey, "the water of which we are so seriously in need."
The young people evidently wished to regard the storm from their own point of view, and although I could have opposed plenty of common sense to their poetical sentiments, I said no more, but let them talk on as they pleased for fully an hour.
Meanwhile the sky was becoming quite over-clouded, and after the zodiacal constellations had disappeared in the mists that hung round the horizon, one by one the stars above our heads were veiled in dark rolling masses of vapor, from which every instant there issued forth sheets of electricity that formed a vivid background to the dark gray fragments of cloud that floated beneath.
Sleep, even if we wished it, would have been impossible in that stifling temperature. The lightning increased in brilliancy and appeared from all quarters of the horizon, each flash covering large arcs, varying from l00 deg. to 150 deg., leaving the atmosphere pervaded by one incessant phos- phorescent glow.
The thunder became at length more and more distinct, the reports, if I may use the expression, being "round," rather than rolling. It seemed almost as though the sky were padded with heavy clouds of which the elasticity muffled the sound of the electric bursts.
Hitherto, the sea had been calm, almost stagnant as a pond. Now, however, long undulations took place, which the sailors recognized, all too well, as being the rebound pro- duced by a distant tempest. A ship, in such a case, would have been instantly brought ahull, but no maneuvering could be applied to our raft, which could only drift before the blast.
At one o'clock in the morning one vivid flash, followed, after the interval of a few seconds, by a loud report of thunder, announced that the storm was rapidly approaching. Suddenly the horizon was enveloped in a vaporous fog, and seemed to contract until it was close around us. At the same instant the voice of one of the sailors was heard shout- ing:
"A squall! a squall!"
CHAPTER XXXV TWO SAILORS WASHED OVERBOARD
DECEMBER 21, night. -- The boatswain rushed to the halliards that supported the sail, and instantly lowered the yard; not a moment too soon, for with the speed of an arrow the squall was upon us, and if it had not been for the sailor's timely warning we must all have been knocked down and probably precipitated into the sea; as it was, our tent on the back of the raft was carried away.
The raft itself, however, being so nearly level with the water, had little peril to encounter from the actual wind; but from the mighty waves now raised by the hurricane we had everything to dread. At first the waves had been crushed and flattened as it were by the pressure of the air, but now, as though strengthened by the reaction, they rose with the utmost fury. The raft followed the motions of the increasing swell, and was tossed up and down, to and fro, and from side to side with the most violent oscillations.