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Chapter 1 In the Dingey of the "Lady Vain"

  • I DO not propose to add anything to what has already been written concernin_he loss of the "Lady Vain." As everyone knows, she collided with a derelic_hen ten days out from Callao. The longboat, with seven of the crew, wa_icked up eighteen days after by H. M. gunboat "Myrtle," and the story o_heir terrible privations has become quite as well known as the far mor_orrible "Medusa" case. But I have to add to the published story of the "Lad_ain" another, possibly as horrible and far stranger. It has hitherto bee_upposed that the four men who were in the dingey perished, but this i_ncorrect. I have the best of evidence for this assertion: I was one of th_our men.
  • But in the first place I must state that there never were four men in th_ingey,—the number was three. Constans, who was "seen by the captain to jum_nto the gig," luckily for us and unluckily for himself did not reach us. H_ame down out of the tangle of ropes under the stays of the smashed bowsprit,
  • some small rope caught his heel as he let go, and he hung for a moment hea_ownward, and then fell and struck a block or spar floating in the water. W_ulled towards him, but he never came up.
  • I say lucky for us he did not reach us, and I might almost say luckily fo_imself; for we had only a small breaker of water and some soddened ship'_iscuits with us, so sudden had been the alarm, so unprepared the ship for an_isaster. We thought the people on the launch would be better provisioned
  • (though it seems they were not), and we tried to hail them. They could no_ave heard us, and the next morning when the drizzle cleared,—which was no_ntil past midday,—we could see nothing of them. We could not stand up to loo_bout us, because of the pitching of the boat. The two other men who ha_scaped so far with me were a man named Helmar, a passenger like myself, and _eaman whose name I don't know,—a short sturdy man, with a stammer.
  • We drifted famishing, and, after our water had come to an end, tormented by a_ntolerable thirst, for eight days altogether. After the second day the se_ubsided slowly to a glassy calm. It is quite impossible for the ordinar_eader to imagine those eight days. He has not, luckily for himself, anythin_n his memory to imagine with. After the first day we said little to on_nother, and lay in our places in the boat and stared at the horizon, o_atched, with eyes that grew larger and more haggard every day, the misery an_eakness gaining upon our companions. The sun became pitiless. The water ende_n the fourth day, and we were already thinking strange things and saying the_ith our eyes; but it was, I think, the sixth before Helmar gave voice to th_hing we had all been thinking. I remember our voices were dry and thin, s_hat we bent towards one another and spared our words. I stood out against i_ith all my might, was rather for scuttling the boat and perishing togethe_mong the sharks that followed us; but when Helmar said that if his proposa_as accepted we should have drink, the sailor came round to him.
  • I would not draw lots however, and in the night the sailor whispered to Helma_gain and again, and I sat in the bows with my clasp-knife in my hand, thoug_ doubt if I had the stuff in me to fight; and in the morning I agreed t_elmar's proposal, and we handed halfpence to find the odd man. The lot fel_pon the sailor; but he was the strongest of us and would not abide by it, an_ttacked Helmar with his hands. They grappled together and almost stood up. _rawled along the boat to them, intending to help Helmar by grasping th_ailor's leg; but the sailor stumbled with the swaying of the boat, and th_wo fell upon the gunwale and rolled overboard together. They sank lik_tones. I remember laughing at that, and wondering why I laughed. The laug_aught me suddenly like a thing from without.
  • I lay across one of the thwarts for I know not how long, thinking that if _ad the strength I would drink sea-water and madden myself to die quickly. An_ven as I lay there I saw, with no more interest than if it had been _icture, a sail come up towards me over the sky-line. My mind must have bee_andering, and yet I remember all that happened, quite distinctly. I remembe_ow my head swayed with the seas, and the horizon with the sail above i_anced up and down; but I also remember as distinctly that I had a persuasio_hat I was dead, and that I thought what a jest it was that they should com_oo late by such a little to catch me in my body.
  • For an endless period, as it seemed to me, I lay with my head on the thwar_atching the schooner (she was a little ship, schooner-rigged fore and aft)
  • come up out of the sea. She kept tacking to and fro in a widening compass, fo_he was sailing dead into the wind. It never entered my head to attempt t_ttract attention, and I do not remember anything distinctly after the sigh_f her side until I found myself in a little cabin aft. There's a dim half-
  • memory of being lifted up to the gangway, and of a big round countenanc_overed with freckles and surrounded with red hair staring at me over th_ulwarks. I also had a disconnected impression of a dark face, wit_xtraordinary eyes, close to mine; but that I thought was a nightmare, until _et it again. I fancy I recollect some stuff being poured in between my teeth;
  • and that is all.