But no! we have no appliances, and we must suffer on.
At the risk of being devoured by the sharks, the boat- swain and two sailors took a morning bath, and as their plunge seemed to freshen them, I and three of my com- panions resolved to follow their example. We had never learned to swim, and had to be fastened to the end of a rope and lowered into the water, while Curtis, during the half hour of our bath, kept a sharp lookout to give warning of any danger from approaching sharks. No recommenda- tion, however, on our part, nor any representation of the benefit we felt we had derived, could induce Miss Herbey to allay her sufferings in the same way.
At about eleven o'clock, the captain came up to me, and whispered in my ear:
"Don't say a word, Mr. Kazallon; I do not want to raise false hopes, but I think I see a ship."
It was as well that the captain had warned me; otherwise, I should have raised an involuntary shout of joy; as it was I had the greatest difficulty in restraining my expressions of delight.
"Look behind to larboard," he continued in an undertone.
Affecting an indifference which I was far from feeling, I cast an anxious glance to that quarter of the horizon of which he spoke, and there, although mine was not a nautical eye, I could plainly distinguish the outline of a ship under sail.
Almost at the same moment the boatswain who happened to be looking in the same direction, raised the cry, "Ship ahoy!"
Whether it was that no one believed it, or whether all energies were exhausted, certain it is that the announcement produced none of the effects that might have been expected. Not a soul exhibited the slightest emotion, and it was only when the boatswain had several times sung out his tidings that all eyes turned to the horizon. There, most undeniably, was the ship, but the question rose at once to the minds of all, and to the lips of many, "Would she see us?"
The sailors immediately began discussing the build of the vessel, and made all sorts of conjectures as to the direction she was taking. Curtis was far more deliberate in his judg- ment. After examining her attentively for some time, he said, "She is a brig running close upon the wind, on the star- board tack. If she keeps her course for a couple of hours, she will come right athwart our tracks."
A couple of hours! The words sounded to our ears like a couple of centuries. The ship might change her course at any moment; closely trimmed as she was, it was very probable that she was only tacking about to catch the wind, in which case, as soon as she felt a breeze, she would résumé her larboard tack and make away again. On the other hand, if she was really sailing with the wind, she would come nearer to us, and there would be good ground for hope.
Meantime, no exertion must be spared, and no means left untried, to make our position known. The brig was about twelve miles to the east of us, so that it was out of the ques- tion to think of any cries of ours being overheard; but Curtis gave directions that every possible signal should be made. We had no firearms by which we could attract attention, and nothing else occurred to us beyond hoisting a flag of distress. Miss Herbey's red shawl, as being of a color most distin- guishable against the background of sea and sky, was run up to the mast-head, and was caught by the light breeze that just then was ruffling the surface of the water. As a drown- ing man clutches at a straw, so our hearts bounded with hope every time that our poor flag fluttered in the wind.
For an hour our feelings alternated between hope and despair. The ship was evidently making her way in the di- rection of the raft, but every now and then she seemed to stop, and then our hearts would almost stand still with agony lest she was going to put about. She carried all her canvas, even to her royals and stay-sails, but her hull was only partially visible above the horizon.
How slowly she advanced! The breeze was very, very feeble, and perhaps soon it would drop altogether! We felt that we would give years of our life to know the result of the coming hour.