The two survivors for a time forgot their own sufferings in the horrible scene which they had just witnessed; but this did not last long; their thoughts soon returned to the necessity of preserving their own lives. They once more resumed their labours, and, though nearly exhausted, did not desist until the boat was almost dry. They then lay down to rest, in comparative security, and, let us hope, with their hearts filled with gratitude for the mercies which had already been vouchsafed to them, and remembering those words of our beautiful Liturgy: ’That it may please Thee to succour, help, and comfort all that are in danger, necessity, or tribulation.’
It is said that sometimes the criminal, the night before his execution, forgets the fate that awaits him in a deep and refreshing slumber. These two men, in spite of the horrors they had undergone, fell into a sound sleep, from which they did not awake until the sun was high in the heavens; when the horrors of their situation broke upon them, rendered doubly painful by the temporary oblivion of the last few hours.
The sun darted its scorching rays upon the two solitary beings, who had planted themselves, one in the bows, and the other in the stern of the boat, with neither oars, mast, sail, nor provisions of any kind. In vain they strained their gaze in every direction; nothing was to be seen but a boundless expanse of waters. Their eyes met, but it needed no words to tell the hopeless despair which was gnawing at their hearts. No longer was the loss of their companions regarded with horror; they envied the fate which had spared them the torture which they themselves were doomed to suffer:—
Famine, despair, cold, thirst,
and heat had done
Their work on them by turns. BYRON.
Death at that moment would have been welcome.
Hour after hour passed away, but still the boat remained motionless on the waters. Neither spoke; their hearts were too full for utterance: in rapid succession, every thought and action of their lives passed across their minds; home, kindred, friends, all would be remembered, only again to be banished by the pangs of hunger and thirst.
Towards eight o’clock in the morning, the energies of Maclean and his companion had almost sunk under the accumulated load of suffering; it was more in despair than with any expectation of success, that they once again cast their eyes around. But this time it was not in vain; a white speck was seen in the distance: both exclaimed, ’A sail! a sail!’ and the extravagance of joy was now equal to their former despair. Still the vessel was several miles distant, and unless those on board kept a vigilant look-out, it was more than probable that they would escape observation.
Of all the ills to which the human frame is liable, the agony of suspense is the most intolerable. Hope and fear rose alternately in their breasts; at one moment, the ship appeared to be nearing, at another, she seemed further off than ever. The vessel sped slowly on its course, but to their excited minds the time seemed interminable. First the white canvas was seen, then the dark hull became visible; but as yet no signs gave token that those on board were aware of their proximity.