The Castaways

Captain Mayne Reid
The Castaways
By Captain Mayne Reid
A boat upon the open sea--no land in sight!
It is an open boat, the size and form showing it to be the pinnace of a
It is a tropical sea, with a fiery sun overhead, slowly coursing through a
sky of brilliant azure.
The boat has neither sail nor mast. There are oars, but no one is using
them. They lie athwart the tholes, their blades dipping in the water,
with no hand upon the grasp.
And yet the boat is not empty. Seven human forms are seen within it,--
six of them living, and one dead.
Of the living, four are full-grown men; three of them white, the fourth
of an umber-brown, or bistre colour. One of the white men is tall, dark
and bearded, with features bespeaking him either a European or an
American, though their somewhat elongated shape and classic
regularity would lead to a belief that he is the latter, and in all
probability a native of New York. And so he is.
The features of the white man sitting nearest to him are in strange
contrast to his, as is also the colour of his hair and skin. The hair is of a
carroty shade, while his complexion, originally reddish, through long
exposure to a tropical sun exhibits a yellowish, freckled appearance.

The countenance so marked is unmistakably of Milesian type. So it
should be, as its owner is an Irishman.
The third white man, of thin, lank frame, with face almost beardless,
pale cadaverous cheeks, and eyes sunken in their sockets, and there
rolling wildly, is one of those nondescripts who may be English, Irish,
Scotch, or American. His dress betokens him to be a seaman, a
common sailor.
He of the brown complexion, with flat spreading nose, high
cheek-bones, oblique eyes, and straight, raven black hair, is evidently a
native of the East, a Malay.
The two other living figures in the boat are those of a boy and girl.
They are white. They differ but little in size, and but a year or two in
age, the girl being fourteen and the boy about sixteen. There is also a
resemblance in their features. They are brother and sister.
The fourth white, who lies dead in the bottom of the boat, is also
dressed in seaman's clothes, and has evidently in his lifetime been a
common sailor.
It is but a short time since the breath departed from his body; and
judging by the appearance of the others, it may not be long before they
will all follow him into another world. How weak and emaciated they
appear, as if in the last stage of starvation! The boy and girl lie along
the stern-sheets, with wasted arms, embracing each other. The tall man
sits on one of the benches, gazing mechanically upon the corpse at his
feet; while the other three also have their eyes upon it, though with very
different expressions. That upon the face of the Irishman is of sadness,
as if for the loss of an old shipmate; the Malay looks on with the
impassive tranquillity peculiar to his race; while in the sunken orbs of
the nondescript can be detected a look that speaks of a horrible
craving--the craving of cannibalism.
The scene described, and the circumstances which have led to it, call
for explanation. It is easily given. The tall dark-bearded man is Captain
Robert Redwood, the skipper of an American merchant-vessel, for

some time trading among the islands of the Indian Archipelago. The
Irishman is his ship-carpenter, the Malay his pilot, while the others are
two common sailors of his crew. The boy and girl are his children, who,
having no mother or near relatives at home, have been brought along
with him on his trading voyage to the Eastern Isles. The vessel passing
from Manilla, in the Philippines, to the Dutch settlement of Macassar,
in the island of Celebes, has been caught in a typhoon and swamped
near the middle of the Celebes Sea; her crew have escaped in a
boat--the pinnace--but saved from death by drowning only to find, most
of them, the same watery grave after long-procrastinated suffering from
thirst, from hunger, from all the agonies of starvation.
One after another have they succumbed, and been thrown overboard,
until the survivors are only six in number. And these are but skeletons,
each looking as if another day, or even another hour, might terminate
his wretched existence.
It may seem strange that the youthful pair in the stern-sheets, still but
tender children, and the girl more especially, should have withstood the
terrible suffering beyond a period possible to many strong men, tough
sailors every one of them. But it is not so strange after
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