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NARRATIVE OF A. GORDON PYM - CHAPTER 13

by Edgar Allan Poe

JULY 24. This morning saw us wonderfully recruited in spirits and

strength. Notwithstanding the perilous situation in which we were
still placed, ignorant of our position, although certainly at a great
distance from land, without more food than would last us for a
fortnight even with great care, almost entirely without water, and
floating about at the mercy of every wind and wave on the merest
wreck in the world, still the infinitely more terrible distresses and
dangers from which we had so lately and so providentially been
delivered caused us to regard what we now endured as but little more
than an ordinary evil- so strictly comparative is either good or ill.

At sunrise we were preparing to renew our attempts at getting up

something from the storeroom, when, a smart shower coming on, with
some lightning, we turn our attention to the catching of water by
means of the sheet we had used before for this purpose. We had no
other means of collecting the rain than by holding the sheet spread
out with one of the forechain-plates in the middle of it. The water,
thus conducted to the centre, was drained through into our jug. We
had nearly filled it in this manner, when, a heavy squall coming on
from the northward, obliged us to desist, as the hulk began once more
to roll so violently that we could no longer keep our feet. We now
went forward, and, lashing ourselves securely to the remnant of the
windlass as before, awaited the event with far more calmness than
could have been anticipated or would have been imagined possible
under the circumstances. At noon the wind had freshened into a
two-reef breeze, and by night into a stiff gale, accompanied with a
tremendously heavy swell. Experience having taught us, however, the
best method of arranging our lashings, we weathered this dreary night
in tolerable security, although thoroughly drenched at almost every
instant by the sea, and in momentary dread of being washed off.
Fortunately, the weather was so warm as to render the water rather
grateful than otherwise.

July 25. This morning the gale had diminished to a mere ten-knot

breeze, and the sea had gone down with it so considerably that we
were able to keep ourselves dry upon the deck. To our great grief,
however, we found that two jars of our olives, as well as the whole
of our ham, had been washed overboard, in spite of the careful manner
in which they had been fastened. We determined not to kill the
tortoise as yet, and contented ourselves for the present with a
breakfast on a few of the olives, and a measure of water each, which
latter we mixed half and half, with wine, finding great relief and
strength from the mixture, without the distressing intoxication which
had ensued upon drinking the port. The sea was still far too rough
for the renewal of our efforts at getting up provision from the
storeroom. Several articles, of no importance to us in our present
situation, floated up through the opening during the day, and were
immediately washed overboard. We also now observed that the hulk lay
more along than ever, so that we could not stand an instant without
lashing ourselves. On this account we passed a gloomy and
uncomfortable day. At noon the sun appeared to be nearly vertical,
and we had no doubt that we had been driven down by the long
succession of northward and northwesterly winds into the near
vicinity of the equator. Toward evening we saw several sharks, and were
somewhat alarmed by the audacious manner in which an enormously large
one approached us. At one time, a lurch throwing the deck very far
beneath the water, the monster actually swam in upon us, floundering
for some moments just over the companion-hatch, and striking Peters
violently with his tail. A heavy sea at length hurled him overboard,
much to our relief. In moderate weather we might have easily captured
him.

July 26. This morning, the wind having greatly abated, and the

sea not being very rough, we determined to renew our exertions in the
storeroom. After a great deal of hard labor during the whole day, we
found that nothing further was to be expected from this quarter, the
partitions of the room having been stove during the night, and its
contents swept into the hold. This discovery, as may be supposed,
filled us with despair.

July 27. The sea nearly smooth, with a light wind, and still from

the northward and westward. The sun coming out hotly in the
afternoon, we occupied ourselves in drying our clothes. Found great
relief from thirst, and much comfort otherwise, by bathing in the
sea; in this, however, we were forced to use great caution, being
afraid of sharks, several of which were seen swimming around the brig
during the day.

July 28. Good weather still. The brig now began to lie along so

alarmingly that we feared she would eventually roll bottom up.
Prepared ourselves as well as we could for this emergency, lashing
our tortoise, waterjug, and two remaining jars of olives as far as
possible over to the windward, placing them outside the hull below
the main-chains. The sea very smooth all day, with little or no wind.

July 29. A continuance of the same weather. Augustus's wounded

arm began to evince symptoms of mortification. He complained of
drowsiness and excessive thirst, but no acute pain. Nothing could be
done for his relief beyond rubbing his wounds with a little of the
vinegar from the olives, and from this no benefit seemed to be
experienced. We did every thing in our power for his comfort, and
trebled his allowance of water.

July 30. An excessively hot day, with no wind. An enormous shark

kept close by the hulk during the whole of the forenoon. We made
several unsuccessful attempts to capture him by means of a noose.
Augustus much worse, and evidently sinking as much from want of
proper nourishment as from the effect of his wounds. He constantly
prayed to be relieved from his sufferings, wishing for nothing but
death. This evening we ate the last of our olives, and found the
water in our jug so putrid that we could not swallow it at all
without the addition of wine. Determined to kill our tortoise in the
morning.

July 31. After a night of excessive anxiety and fatigue, owing to

the position of the hulk, we set about killing and cutting up our
tortoise. He proved to be much smaller than we had supposed, although
in good condition,- the whole meat about him not amounting to more
than ten pounds. With a view of preserving a portion of this as long
as possible, we cut it into fine pieces, and filled with them our
three remaining olive jars and the wine-bottle (all of which had been
kept), pouring in afterward the vinegar from the olives. In this
manner we put away about three pounds of the tortoise, intending not
to touch it until we had consumed the rest. We concluded to restrict
ourselves to about four ounces of the meat per day; the whole would
thus last us thirteen days. A brisk shower, with severe thunder and
lightning, came on about dusk, but lasted so short a time that we
only succeeded in catching about half a pint of water. The whole of
this, by common consent, was given to Augustus, who now appeared to
be in the last extremity. He drank the water from the sheet as we
caught it (we holding it above him as he lay so as to let it run into
his mouth), for we had now nothing left capable of holding water,
unless we had chosen to empty out our wine from the carboy, or the
stale water from the jug. Either of these expedients would have been
resorted to had the shower lasted.

The sufferer seemed to derive but little benefit from the

draught. His arm was completely black from the wrist to the shoulder,
and his feet were like ice. We expected every moment to see him
breathe his last. He was frightfully emaciated; so much so that,
although he weighed a hundred and twenty-seven pounds upon his
leaving Nantucket, he now did not weigh more than forty or fifty at
the farthest. His eyes were sunk far in his head, being scarcely
perceptible, and the skin of his cheeks hung so loosely as to prevent
his masticating any food, or even swallowing any liquid, without
great difficulty.

August 1. A continuance of the same calm weather, with an

oppressively hot sun. Suffered exceedingly from thirst, the water in
the jug being absolutely putrid and swarming with vermin. We
contrived, nevertheless, to swallow a portion of it by mixing it with
wine; our thirst, however, was but little abated. We found more
relief by bathing in the sea, but could not avail ourselves of this
expedient except at long intervals, on account of the continual
presence of sharks. We now saw clearly that Augustus could not be
saved; that he was evidently dying. We could do nothing to relieve
his sufferings, which appeared to be great. About twelve o'clock he
expired in strong convulsions, and without having spoken for several
hours. His death filled us with the most gloomy forebodings, and had
so great an effect upon our spirits that we sat motionless by the
corpse during the whole day, and never addressed each other except in
a whisper. It was not until some time after dark that we took courage
to get up and throw the body overboard. It was then loathsome beyond
expression, and so far decayed that, as Peters attempted to lift it,
an entire leg came off in his grasp. As the mass of putrefaction
slipped over the vessel's side into the water, the glare of
phosphoric light with which it was surrounded plainly discovered to
us seven or eight large sharks, the clashing of whose horrible teeth,
as their prey was torn to pieces among them, might have been heard at
the distance of a mile. We shrunk within ourselves in the extremity
of horror at the sound.

August 2. The same fearfully calm and hot weather. The dawn found

us in a state of pitiable dejection as well as bodily exhaustion. The
water in the jug was now absolutely useless, being a thick gelatinous
mass; nothing but frightful-looking worms mingled with slime. We
threw it out, and washed the jug well in the sea, afterward pouring a
little vinegar in it from our bottles of pickled tortoise. Our thirst
could now scarcely be endured, and we tried in vain to relieve it by
wine, which seemed only to add fuel to the flame, and excited us to a
high degree of intoxication. We afterward endeavoured to relieve our
sufferings by mixing the wine with seawater; but this instantly
brought about the most violent retchings, so that we never again
attempted it. During the whole day we anxiously sought an opportunity
of bathing, but to no purpose; for the hulk was now entirely besieged
on all sides with sharks- no doubt the identical monsters who had
devoured our poor companion on the evening before, and who were in
momentary expectation of another similar feast. This circumstance
occasioned us the most bitter regret and filled us with the most
depressing and melancholy forebodings. We had experienced
indescribable relief in bathing, and to have this resource cut off in
so frightful a manner was more than we could bear. Nor, indeed, were
we altogether free from the apprehension of immediate danger, for the
least slip or false movement would have thrown us at once within
reach of those voracious fish, who frequently thrust themselves
directly upon us, swimming up to leeward. No shouts or exertions on
our part seemed to alarm them. Even when one of the largest was
struck with an axe by Peters and much wounded, he persisted in his
attempts to push in where we were. A cloud came up at dusk, but, to
our extreme anguish, passed over without discharging itself. It is
quite impossible to conceive our sufferings from thirst at this
period. We passed a sleepless night, both on this account and through
dread of the sharks.

August 3. No prospect of relief, and the brig lying still more

and more along, so that now we could not maintain a footing upon deck
at all. Busied ourselves in securing our wine and tortoise-meat, so
that we might not lose them in the event of our rolling over. Got out
two stout spikes from the forechains, and, by means of the axe, drove
them into the hull to windward within a couple of feet of the water,
this not being very far from the keel, as we were nearly upon our
beam-ends. To these spikes we now lashed our provisions, as being
more secure than their former position beneath the chains. Suffered
great agony from thirst during the whole day- no chance of bathing on
account of the sharks, which never left us for a moment. Found it
impossible to sleep.

August 4. A little before daybreak we perceived that the hulk was
heeling over, and aroused ourselves to prevent being thrown off by
the movement. At first the roll was slow and gradual, and we
contrived to clamber over to windward very well, having taken the
precaution to leave ropes hanging from the spikes we had driven in
for the provision. But we had not calculated sufficiently upon the
acceleration of the impetus; for, presently the heel became too
violent to allow of our keeping pace with it; and, before either of
us knew what was to happen, we found ourselves hurled furiously into
the sea, and struggling several fathoms beneath the surface, with the
huge hull immediately above us.

In going under the water I had been obliged to let go my hold

upon the rope; and finding that I was completely beneath the vessel,
and my strength nearly exhausted, I scarcely made a struggle for
life, and resigned myself, in a few seconds, to die. But here again I
was deceived, not having taken into consideration the natural rebound
of the hull to windward. The whirl of the water upward, which the
vessel occasioned in rolling partially back, brought me to the
surface still more violently than I had been plunged beneath. Upon
coming up I found myself about twenty yards from the hulk, as near as
I could judge. She was lying keel up, rocking furiously from side to
side, and the sea in all directions around was much agitated, and
full of strong whirlpools. I could see nothing of Peters. An oil-cask
was floating within a few feet of me, and various other articles from
the brig were scattered about.

My principal terror was now on account of the sharks, which I

knew to be in my vicinity. In order to deter these, if possible, from
approaching me, I splashed the water vigorously with both hands and
feet as I swam towards the hulk, creating a body of foam. I have no
doubt that to this expedient, simple as it was, I was indebted for my
preservation; for the sea all round the brig, just before her rolling
over, was so crowded with these monsters, that I must have been, and
really was, in actual contact with some of them during my progress.
By great good fortune, however, I reached the side of the vessel in
safety, although so utterly weakened by the violent exertion I had
used that I should never have been able to get upon it but for the
timely assistance of Peters, who, now, to my great joy, made his
appearance (having scrambled up to the keel from the opposite side of
the hull), and threw me the end of a rope -- one of those which had
been attached to the spikes.

Having barely escaped this danger, our attention was now directed

to the dreadful imminency of another -- that of absolute starvation.
Our whole stock of provision had been swept overboard in spite of all
our care in securing it; and seeing no longer the remotest
possibility of obtaining more, we gave way both of us to despair,
weeping aloud like children, and neither of us attempting to offer
consolation to the other. Such weakness can scarcely be conceived,
and to those who have never been similarly situated will, no doubt,
appear unnatural; but it must be remembered that our intellects were
so entirely disordered by the long course of privation and terror to
which we had been subjected, that we could not justly be considered,
at that period, in the light of rational beings. In subsequent
perils, nearly as great, if not greater, I bore up with fortitude
against all the evils of my situation, and Peters, it will be seen,
evinced a stoical philosophy nearly as incredible as his present
childlike supineness and imbecility -- the mental condition made the
difference.

The overturning of the brig, even with the consequent loss of the

wine and turtle, would not, in fact, have rendered our situation more
deplorable than before, except for the disappearance of the
bedclothes by which we had been hitherto enabled to catch rainwater,
and of the jug in which we had kept it when caught; for we found the
whole bottom, from within two or three feet of the bends as far as
the keel, together with the keel itself, thickly covered with large
barnacles, which proved to be excellent and highly nutritious food.
Thus, in two important respects, the accident we had so greatly
dreaded proved to be a benefit rather than an injury; it had opened
to us a supply of provisions which we could not have exhausted, using
it moderately, in a month; and it had greatly contributed to our
comfort as regards position, we being much more at ease, and in
infinitely less danger, than before.

The difficulty, however, of now obtaining water blinded us to all

the benefits of the change in our condition. That we might be ready
to avail ourselves, as far as possible, of any shower which might
fall we took off our shirts, to make use of them as we had of the
sheets -- not hoping, of course, to get more in this way, even under
the most favorable circumstances, than half a gill at a time. No
signs of a cloud appeared during the day, and the agonies of our
thirst were nearly intolerable. At night, Peters obtained about an
hour's disturbed sleep, but my intense sufferings would not permit me
to close my eyes for a single moment.

August 5. To-day, a gentle breeze springing up carried us through

a vast quantity of seaweed, among which we were so fortunate as to
find eleven small crabs, which afforded us several delicious meals.
Their shells being quite soft, we ate them entire, and found that
they irritated our thirst far less than the barnacles. Seeing no
trace of sharks among the seaweed, we also ventured to bathe, and
remained in the water for four or five hours, during which we
experienced a very sensible diminution of our thirst. Were greatly
refreshed, and spent the night somewhat more comfortably than before,
both of us snatching a little sleep.

August 6. This day we were blessed by a brisk and continual rain,

lasting from about noon until after dark. Bitterly did we now regret
the loss of our jug and carboy; for, in spite of the little means we
had of catching the water, we might have filled one, if not both of
them. As it was, we contrived to satisfy the cravings of thirst by
suffering the shirts to become saturated, and then wringing them so
as to let the grateful fluid trickle into our mouths. In this
occupation we passed the entire day.

August 7. Just at daybreak we both at the same instant descried a

sail to the eastward, and evidently coming towards us! We hailed
the glorious sight with a long, although feeble shout of rapture; and
began instantly to make every signal in our power, by flaring the
shirts in the air, leaping as high as our weak condition would
permit, and even by hallooing with all the strength of our lungs,
although the vessel could not have been less than fifteen miles
distant. However, she still continued to near our hulk, and we felt
that, if she but held her present course, she must eventually come so
close as to perceive us. In about an hour after we first discovered
her, we could clearly see the people on her decks. She was a long,
low, and rakish-looking topsail schooner, with a black ball in her
foretopsail, and had, apparently, a full crew. We now became alarmed,
for we could hardly imagine it possible that she did not observe us,
and were apprehensive that she meant to leave us to perish as we were
-- an act of fiendish barbarity, which, however incredible it may
appear, has been repeatedly perpetuated at sea, under circumstances
very nearly similar, and by beings who were regarded as belonging to
the human species. {*2} In this instance, however, by the mercy of
God, we were destined to be most happily deceived; for, presently we
were aware of a sudden commotion on the deck of the stranger, who
immediately afterward ran up a British flag, and, hauling her wind,
bore up directly upon us. In half an hour more we found ourselves in
her cabin. She proved to be the Jane Guy, of Liverpool, Captain Guy,
bound on a sealing and trading voyage to the South Seas and Pacific.



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