This phenomenon of the simoom, unexpected by us, though foreseen by Idris, caused us all to relapse into our former despondency. It still continued to blow, so as to exhaust us entirely, though the blast was so weak as scarcely would have raised a leaf from the ground. Towards evening it ceased; and a cooling breeze came from the north, blowing five or six minutes at a time, and then falling calm. We reached Chiggre that night, very much fatigued.
[Note:_James Bruce_ (born 1730, died 1794), the African traveller; one of the early explorers of the Nile.]
* * * * *
Another hour of struggle! It was past midnight, or thereabout, and the storm, instead of abating, blew stronger and stronger. A passenger, one of the three on the beam astern, felt too numb and wearied out to retain his hold by the spar any longer; he left it, and swimming with a desperate effort up to the boat, begged in God’s name to be taken in. Some were for granting his request, others for denying; at last two sailors, moved with pity, laid hold of his arms where he clung to the boat’s side, and helped him in. We were now thirteen together, and the boat rode lower down in the water and with more danger than ever: it was literally a hand’s breadth between life and death. Soon after another, Ibraheem by name, and also a passenger, made a similar attempt to gain admittance. To comply would have been sheer madness; but the poor wretch clung to the gunwale, and struggled to clamber over, till the nearest of the crew, after vainly entreating him to quit hold and return to the beam, saying, “It is your only chance of life, you must keep to it,” loosened his grasp by main force, and flung him back into the sea, where he disappeared for ever. “Has Ibraheem reached you?” called out the captain to the sailor now alone astride of the spar. “Ibraheem is drowned,” came the answer across the waves. “Is drowned,” all repeated in an undertone, adding, “and we too shall soon be drowned also.” In fact, such seemed the only probable end of all our endeavours. For the storm redoubled in violence; the baling could no longer keep up with the rate at which the waves entered; the boat became waterlogged; the water poured in hissing on every side: she was sinking, and we were yet far out in the open sea.
“Plunge for it!” a second time shouted the captain. “Plunge who may, I will stay by the boat so long as the boat stays by me,” thought I, and kept my place. Yoosef, fortunately for him, was lying like a corpse, past fear or motion; but four of our party, one a sailor and the other three passengers, thinking that all hope of the boat was now over, and that nothing remained them but the spar, jumped into the sea. Their loss saved the remainder; the boat lightened and righted for a moment, the pilot and I baled away desperately; she rose clear once more of the water. Those in her were now nine in all—eight men and a boy, the captain’s nephew.