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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter IV The Silent Sea

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He turned over; his dreadful face stared upwards; it was the chief officer, sure enough. Then he clove the water with a rush, his dead hand waved, the last of him to disappear; and I had a new horror to think over for my sins. His poor fingers were all broken and beaten to a pulp.

The voices of the night came back to me - the curses and the cries. Yes, I must have heard them. In memory now I recognized the voice of the chief mate, but there again came in the assisted imagination. Yet I was not so sure of this as before. I thought of Santos and his horrible heavy cane. Good God! she was in the power of that! I must live for Eva indeed; must save myself to save and protect my innocent and helpless girl.

Again I was a man; stronger than ever was the stimulus now, louder than ever the call on every drop of true man's blood in my perishing frame. It should not perish! It should not!

Yet my throat was parched; my lips were caked; my frame was hollow. Very weak I was already; without sustenance I should surely die. But as yet I was far enough from death, or I had done disdaining the means of life that all this time lay ready to my hand. A number of dead fowls imparted ballast to my little craft.

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Yet I could not look at them in all these hours; or I could look, but that was all. So I must sit up one hour more, and keep a sharper eye than ever for the tiniest glimmer of a sail. To what end, I often asked myself? I might see them; they would never see me.

Then my eyes would fail, and "you squeamish fool!" I said at intervals, until my tongue failed to articulate; it had swollen so in my mouth. Flying fish skimmed the water like thick spray; petrels were so few that I could count them; another shark swam round me for an hour. In sudden panic I dashed my knuckles on the wooden bars, to get at a duck to give the monster for a sop. My knuckles bled. I held them to my mouth. My cleaving tongue wanted more. The duck went to the shark; a few minutes more and I had made my own vile meal as well.

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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