Jynxstrop dropped his weapon in his fall; I seized it instantly, and was about to cleave the fellow's skull, when I was myself arrested by Andre's hand upon my arm.
By this time the mutineers had been driven back to the forepart of the raft, and Curtis, who had managed to parry the blows which had been aimed at him, had caught hold of a hatchet, with which he was preparing to strike Owen. But Owen made a sidelong movement to avoid the blow, and the weapon caught Wilson full in the chest. The unfor- tunate man rolled over the side of the raft and instantly dis- appeared.
"Save him! save him!" shouted the boatswain.
"It's too late; he's dead! " said Dowlas.
"Ah, well! he'll do for --" began the boatswain; but he did not finish his sentence.
Wilson's death, however, put an end to the fray. Flay- pole and Burke were lying prostrate in a drunken stupor, and Jynxstrop was soon overpowered, and lashed tightly to the foot of the mast. The carpenter and boatswain seized hold of Owen.
"Now then," said Curtis, as he raised his blood-stained hatchet, "make your peace with God, for you have not a moment to live."
"Oh, you want to eat me, do you?" sneered Owen, with the most hardened effrontery.
But the audacious reply saved his life; Curtis turned as pale as death, the hatchet dropped from his hand, and he went and seated himself moodily on the farthest corner of the raft.
CHAPTER XXXIX A FATHER'S LOVE
JANUARY 5 and 6. -- The whole scene made a deep impres- sion on our minds, and Owen's speech coming as a sort of climax, brought before us our misery with a force that was well-nigh overwhelming.
As soon as I recovered my composure, I did not forget to thank Andre Letourneur for the act of intervention that had saved my life.
"Do you thank me for that, Mr. Kazallon?" he said; "it has only served to prolong your misery."
"Never mind, M. Letourneur," said Miss Herbey; "you did your duty."
Enfeebled and emaciated as the young girl is, her sense of duty never deserts her; and although her torn and be- draggled garments float dejectedly about her body, she never utters a word of complaint, and never loses courage.
"Mr. Kazallon," she said to me, "do you think we are fated to die of hunger?"
"Yes, Miss Herbey, I do," I replied, in a hard, cold tone.
"How long do you suppose we have to live?" she asked again.
"I cannot say; perhaps we shall linger on longer than we imagine."
"The strongest constitutions suffer the most, do they not?" she said.
"Yes; but they have one consolation -- they die the soon- est," I replied, coldly.
Had every spark of humanity died out of my breast, that I thus brought the girl face to face with the terrible truth, without a word of hope or comfort? The eyes of Andre and his father, dilated with hunger, were fixed upon me, and I saw reproach and astonishment written in their faces.
Afterward, when we were quite alone, Miss Herbey asked me if I would grant her a favor.
"Certainly, Miss Herbey; anything you like to ask," I replied; and this time my manner was kinder and more genial.
"Mr. Kazallon," she said, "I am weaker than you, and shall probably die first. Promise me that, if I do, you will throw me into the sea!"
"Oh, Miss Herbey," I began, "it was very wrong of me to speak to you as I did!"
"No, no," she replied, half smiling; "you were quite right. But it is a weakness of mine; I don't mind what they do with me as long as I am alive, but when I am dead --" She stopped and shuddered. "Oh, promise me that you will throw me into the sea!"
I gave her the melancholy promise, which she acknowl- edged by pressing my hand feebly with her emaciated fingers.
Another night passed away. At times my sufferings were so intense that cries of agony involuntarily escaped my lips; then I became calmer, and sank into a kind of lethargy. When I awoke, I was surprised to find my companions still alive.
The one of our party who seems to bear his privations the best is Hobart the steward, a man with whom hitherto I have had very little to do.