But as we wrapped him in his tattered garments that would have to suffice for his winding sheet, I started back with a thrill of horror. The right foot had gone, leaving the leg a bleeding stump.
No doubt that, overcome by fatigue, I must have fallen asleep for an interval during the night, and some one had taken advantage of my slumber to mutilate the corpse. But who could have been guilty of so foul a deed? Curtis looked around with anger flashing in his eye; but all seemed as usual, and the silence was only broken by a few groans of agony.
But there was no time to be lost; perhaps we were already observed, and more horrible scenes might be likely to occur. Curtis said a few short prayers, and we cast the body into the sea. It sank immediately.
"They are feeding the sharks well, and no mistake," said a voice behind me.
I turned round quickly, and found that it was Jynxstrop who had spoken.
As the boatswain now approached, I asked him whether he thought it possible that any of the wretched men could have taken the dead man's foot.
"Oh, yes, I dare say," he replied in a significant tone, "and perhaps they thought they were right."
"Right! what do you mean?" I exclaimed.
"Well, sir," he said coldly, "isn't it better to eat a dead man than a living one?"
I was at a loss to comprehend him, and, turning away, laid myself down at the end of the raft.
Toward eleven o'clock a most suspicious incident occurred. The boatswain, who had cast his lines early in the morning, caught three large cod, each more than thirty inches long, of the species which, when dried, is known by the name of stock-fish. Scarcely had he hauled them on board when the sailors made a dash at them, and it was with the utmost dif- ficulty that Curtis, Falsten and myself could restore order, so that we might divide the fish into equal portions. Three cod were not much among fourteen starving persons, but, small as the quantity was, it was allotted in strictly equal shares. Most of us devoured the food raw, almost I might say, alive; only Curtis, Andre, and Miss Herbey having the patience to wait until their allowance had been boiled at a fire which they made with a few scraps of wood. For my- self, I confess that I swallowed my portion of fish as it was -- raw and bleeding. M. Letourneur followed my example; the poor man devoured his food like a famished wolf, and it is only a wonder to me how, after his lengthened fast, he came to be alive at all.
The boatswain's delight at his success was excessive, and amounted almost to delirium. I went up to him, and en- couraged him to repeat his attempt.
"Oh, yes," he said; "I'll try again. I'll try again."
"And why not try at once?" I asked.
"Not now," he said evasively; "the night is the best time for catching large fish. Besides, I must manage to get some bait, for we have been improvident enough not to save a single scrap."
"But you have succeeded once without bait; why may you not succeed again?"
"Oh, I had some very good bait last night," he said.
I stared at him in amazement. He steadily returned my gaze, but said nothing.
"Have you none left?" at last I asked.
"Yes!" he almost whispered, and left me without another word.
Our meal, meager as it had been, served to rally our shat- tered energies; our hopes were slightly raised; there was no reason why the boatswain should not have the same good luck again.
One evidence of the degree to which our spirits were re- vived was that our minds were no longer fixed upon the miserable present and hopeless future, but we began to recall and discuss the past; and M. Letourneur, Andre, Mr. Fal- sten and I, held a long conversation with the captain about the various incidents of our eventful voyage, speaking of our lost companions, of the fire, or the stranding of the ship, of our sojourn on Ham Rock, of the springing of the leak, of our terrible voyage in the top-masts, of the construction of the raft, and of the storm. All these things seemed to have happened so long ago, and yet we were living still.