AND 16 OTHER STORIES - online book

Home Main Menu Order Support About Search

Share page  

Previous Contents Next

Rambling Notes of an Idle Excursion             26}
her course was one which would not bring her nearer. Their remnant of life was nearly spent; their lips and tongues were swollen, parched, cracked with eight days' thirst; their bodies starved; and here was their last chance gliding relentlessly from them; they would not be alive when the next sun rose. For a day or two past the men had lost their voices, but now Captain Rounceville whispered, "Let us pray." The Portu­guese patted him on the shoulder in sign of deep ap­proval. All knelt at the base of the oar that was waving the signal-coat aloft, and bowed their heads. The sea was tossing; the sun rested, a red, rayless disk, on the sea-line in the west. When the men pres­ently raised their heads they would have roared a halle­lujah if they had had a voice; the ship's sails lay wrinkled and flapping against her masts — she was going about! Here was rescue at last, and in the very last instant of time that was left for it. No, not rescue yet — only the imminent prospect of it. The red disk sank under the sea, and darkness blotted out the ship. By and by came a pleasant sound — oars moving in a boat's rowlocks. Nearer it came, and nearer — within thirty steps, but nothing visible. Then a deep voice: "Hol-A?/' The castaways could not answer; their swollen tongues refused voice. The boat skirted round and round the raft, started away — the agony of it! — returned, rested the oars, close at hand, listening, no doubt. The deep voice again: " Hol-/0 / Where are ye, shipmates?" Captain Rounceville whispered to his men, saying: "Whisper your best, boys! now — all at once!" So they sent out an eightfold whisper in hoarse concert: " Here !" There was life in it if it succeeded; death if it failed. After that supreme mo­ment Captain Rounceville was conscious of nothing until he came to himself on board the saving ship. Said the Reverend, concluding: