Sight, taste, and hear- ing -- all were gone; but the cerebral derangement supplied their place, and in imagination the maniac was conversing with absent friends, inviting them into the George Inn at Cardiff, offering them gin, whiskey, and, above all, water! Stumbling at every step, and singing in a cracked, discordant voice, he staggered about among us like an intoxicated man. With the loss of his senses all his sufferings had vanished, and his thirst was appeased. It was hard not to wish to be a partaker of his hallucination.
Dowlas, Falsten, and the boatswain, seemed to think that the unfortunate wretch would, like Jynxstrop, put an end to himself by leaping into the sea; but, determined this time to preserve the body, that it might serve a better purpose than merely feeding the sharks, they rose and followed the madman everywhere he went, keeping a strict eye upon his every movement.
But the matter did not end as they expected. As though he were really intoxicated by the stimulants of which he had been raving, Flaypole at last sank down in a heap in a cor- ner of the raft, where he lay lost in a heavy slumber.
CHAPTER LII I DECIDE TO COMMIT SUICIDE
JANUARY 25. -- Last night was very misty, and for some unaccountable reason, one of the hottest that can be imagined. The atmosphere was really so stifling, that it seemed as if it only required a spark to set it alight. The raft was not only quite stationary, but did not even rise and fall with any motion of the waves.
During the night I tried to count how many there were now on board, but I was utterly unable to collect my ideas sufficiently to make the enumeration. Sometimes I counted ten, sometimes twelve, and although I knew that eleven, since Jynxstrop was dead, was the correct number, I could never bring my reckoning right. Of one thing I felt quite sure, and that was that the number would very soon be ten. I was convinced that I could myself last but very little longer. All the events and associations of my life passed rapidly through my brain. My country, my friends, and my family all appeared as it were in a vision, and seemed as though they had come to bid me a last farewell.
Toward morning I woke from my sleep, if the languid stupor into which I had fallen was worthy of that name. One fixed idea had taken possession of my brain -- I would put an end to myself; and I felt a sort of pleasure as I gloated over the power that I had to terminate my suffer- ings. I told Curtis, with the utmost composure, of my in- tention, and he received the intelligence as calmly as it was delivered.
"Of course you will do as you please," he said; "for my own part, I shall not abandon my post. It is my duty to remain here; and unless death comes to carry me away, I shall stay where I am to the very last."
The dull gray fog still hung heavily over the ocean, but the sun was evidently shining above the mist, and would, in course of time, dispel the vapor. Toward seven o'clock I fancied I heard the cries of birds above my head. The sound was repeated three times, and as I went up to the cap- tain to ask him about it, I heard him mutter to himself:
"Birds! Why, that looks as if land were not far off."
But although Curtis might still cling to the hope of reach- ing land, I knew not what it was to have one sanguine thought. For me there was neither continent nor island; the world was one fluid sphere, uniform, monotonous, as in the most primitive period of its formation. Nevertheless it must be owned that it was with a certain amount of im- patience that I awaited the rising of the mist, for I was anxious to shake off the phantom fallacies that Curtis's words had suggested to my mind.
Not till eleven o'clock did the fog begin to break, and as it rolled in heavy folds along the surface of the water, I could every now and then catch glimpses of a clear blue sky beyond. Fierce sunbeams pierced the cloud-rifts, scorching and burning our bodies like red-hot iron; but it was only above our heads that there was any sunlight to condense the vapor; the horizon was still quite invisible.