« ForrigeFortsæt »
found the raft still buffeted on the surface of the water. It was reserved for greater horrors.
As the second day dawned, the storm gradually ceased, and the ocean calmed. When there was sufficient light, the spectacle which presented itself was most dismal. Wet, battered, sick, and wounded, the wretched sufferers were huddled confusedly together in heaps. On giving out rations of wine by way of a meal, it was found that twenty persons were missing; a greater number, however, were probably washed overboard during the night; for several, in order to increase their allowance, took rations for their dead companions. That twenty out of the hundred and fifty were gone, was at least certain. Death had taken his first installment.
During the day, which continued fine throughout, tranquillity prevailed, and sanguine hopes were entertained that the boats would shortly appear; none of them, however, made their appearance, and hope once more gave way to gloomy despair. A mutiny now broke out; the orders of the officers were disregarded, and there was reason to expect that next night, for want of the precautions hitherto adopted, many lives would be sacrificed. Night at length came, and, to add to the horrors of the scene, there was every appearance of a fresh storm approaching. The sky became covered with heavy
clouds, the wind, which had been rather high all day, now rose to a gale, and the waves, again excited, rolled upon the raft in continuous masses, driving it before them as if to immediate destruction.
In this dismal condition the hearts of the mutineers quailed, and all tried to seek safety in being calm.
But rest was impossible. Terrified for the fury of the waves, the mass of sufferers clung to the center of the raft, where some were actually stifled by the weight of their companions. Those who were outside, and exposed, were rolled over from side to side, and of these a number were swept into the sea. So little was the hope of surviving, that a body of sailors and soldiers resolved to drown the sense of their situation in wine, and so die while in a stupor of intoxication. The officers, clinging for safety to the mast, could offer no effectual opposition to this mad and cowardly scheme; and accordingly a wine cask was opened, and from it the mutineers drank a considerable quantity_and would have drank more, had the sea-water not entered the cask by the opening which had been made in it, and caused them to desist. Now maddened with liquor, the folly of the mutineers knew no bounds; and they proceeded to cut the lashings that held the timbers of the raft together, in order to destroy
all at a blow. Roused by the proposal, the officers endeavored to avert their impending fate by more vigorous measures than they had hitherto dared to put in practice. When one of the ringleaders in the revolt made the first move to cut the ropes with a hatchet, the officers rushed upon him, and, after a desperate struggle, dispatched him, and threw his body into the sea.
He was an Asiatic, of extraordinary size; and, having been troublesome and overbearing in demeanor, few lamented his loss. There was now an expectation of a battle between the two parties. The mutineers drew their swords, and were on the point of commencing an attack, when another of their nunber was killed, and they retreated; only, however, to make a fresh attempt to cut the ropes. One of the officers succeeded in preventing this being done, and in a scuffle which ensued, struck down a soldier and a sailor, whom he threw into the sea, where they were drowned. Their exasperated comrades now rushed to the mast, and began to cut down the ropes which supported it. The mast fell with a crash on the leg of an officer, which it nearly broke; and, far from pitying this misfortune, the enraged crowd threw the poor man into the sea, whence, however, his friends rescued him. No sooner was he on board the wretched raft, which, during
the commotion, was tumbling about among the waves, than he was seized on a second time, and an attempt made to put out his eyes. Rendered desperate by these barbarous cruelties, the officers and those who supported them, made a charge on their antagonists, and put a number of them to death.
While the combat still raged, some of the mutineers took occasion to throw into the
together with her husband, the unfortunate woman who was on board. Correard, distressed at seeing two unoffending individuals perish, and affected by their cries for help, seized a large rope which he found on the forepart of the raft, fastened it round his waist, and plunged into the sea. He was thus able to save the female when she was in the act of disappearing below the water. Her husband was at the same time rescued by M. Lavillette. The two exhausted beings were laid on the dead bodies, and their backs were supported by a barrel : in this situation they shortly recovered their senses. The first thing the woman did was to acquaint herself with the name of the person who had saved her from drowning, and to express to him her liveliest gratitude. Finding, doubtless, that words but ill-expressed her feelings, she recollected she had in her pocket a small quantity of snuff, and instantly offered it to him—it was all she pos
sessed. Touched with her gift, but unable to use it, M. Correard gave it to a poor sailor, who derived a solacement from it for three or four days. It is impossible to describe a still more affecting incident—the joyful recognition of the husband and wife, when they discovered that both were alive: they could scarcely credit their senses when they found themselves in one another's arms.
This woman was quite a heroine of humble life. For twenty-four years she had traveled as a soldier's wife along with the French armies, in their campaigns in Italy and other places. In this vagrant life she acted as a suttler, supplying the men with articles; and often was exposed to the greatest dangers on the battle-field, in carrying assistance to the wounded soldiers. In telling her story to M. Correard, she said: “Whether the men had money or not, I always let them have my goods. Sometimes a battle would deprive me of my poor debtors; but after the victory, others would pay me double or triple for what they had consumed before the engagement. Thus I came in for a share of their victories." Unfortunate woman, to have sailed in such a miserable expedition! Little was she aware of the fate that awaited her!
Returning to the position of affairs on the raft: the mutiny was quelled by the determined