"Fresh water?" cried Curtis; "why then, my friends, we are not far from land!"
It was not too late: the blow had not been struck, and so the victim had not yet fallen. Curtis and Andre (who had regained his liberty) had fought with the cannibals, and it was just as they were yielding to over-powering numbers that my voice had made itself heard.
The struggle came to an end. As soon as the words "fresh water" had escaped my lips, I leaned over the side of the raft and swallowed the life-giving liquid in greedy draughts. Miss Herbey was the first to follow my example, but soon Curtis, Falsten, and all the rest were on their knees and drinking eagerly. The rough sailors seemed as if by a magic touch transformed back from ravenous beasts to human beings, and I saw several of them raise their hands to heaven in silent gratitude. Andre and his father were the last to drink.
"But where are we?" I asked at length.
"The land is there," said Curtis, pointing toward the west.
We all stared at the captain as though he were mocking us: no land was in sight, and the raft, just as ever, was the center of a watery waste. Yet our senses had not deceived us; the water we had been drinking was perfectly fresh.
"Yes," repeated the captain, "land is certainly there, not more than twenty miles to leeward."
"What land?" inquired the boatswain.
"South America," answered Curtis, "and near the Amazon; no other river has a current strong enough to freshen the ocean twenty miles from shore!"
CHAPTER LVII LAND AHOY!
JANUARY 27 continued. -- Curtis, no doubt, was right. The discharge from the mouth of the Amazon is enor- mously large, but we had probably drifted into the only spot in the Atlantic where we could find fresh water so far from land. Yet land undoubtedly was there, and the breeze was carrying us onward slowly but surely to our deliverance.
Miss Herbey's voice was heard pouring out fervent praise to Heaven, and we were all glad to unite our thanksgivings with hers. Then the whole of us (with the exception of Andre and his father, who remained by themselves to- gether at the stern) clustered in a group, and kept our ex- pectant gaze upon the horizon.
We had not long to wait. Before an hour had passed, Curtis leaped in ecstasy and raised the joyous shout of "Land ahoy!"
. . . . .
My journal has come to a close.
I have only to relate, as briefly as possible, the circum- stances that finally brought us to our destination.
A few hours after we first sighted land the raft was off Cape Magoari, on the island of Marajo, and was observed by some fishermen, who, with kind-hearted alacrity picked us up and tended us most carefully. They conveyed us to Para, where we became the objects of unbounded sympathy.
The raft was brought to land in latitude 0 deg. 12' north, so that since we abandoned the Chancellor we had drifted at least fifteen degrees to the southwest. Except for the in- fluence of the Gulf Stream we must have been carried far, far to the south, and in that case we should never have reached the mouth of the Amazon, and must inevitably have been lost.
Of the thirty-two souls -- nine passengers and twenty- three seamen -- who left Charleston on board the ship, only five passengers and six seamen remain. Eleven of us alone survive.
An official account of our rescue was drawn up by the Brazilian authorities. Those who signed were Miss Her- bey, J. R. Kazallon, M. Letourneur, Andre Letourneur, Mr. Falsten, the boatswain, Dowlas, Burke, Flaypole, San- don, and last, though not least, "Robert Curtis, Captain."
At Para we soon found facilities for continuing our homeward route. A vessel took us to Cayenne, where we secured a passage on board one of the steamers of the French Transatlantic Aspinwall line, the Ville de St. Na- zaire, which conveyed us to Europe.
After all the dangers and privations which we have under- gone together, it is scarcely necessary to say that there has arisen between the surviving passengers of the Chancellor a bond of friendship too indissoluble, I believe, for either time or circumstance to destroy; Curtis must ever remain the honored and valued friend of those whose welfare he consulted so faithfully in their misfortunes; his conduct was beyond all praise.