20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne Read Free Book Online

Book: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jules Verne
Tags: Retail, Personal
Abraham Lincoln in desperation.
    My clothes encumbered me; they seemed glued to my body, and paralysed my movements.

    I was sinking! I was suffocating!
    This was my last cry. My mouth filled with water; I struggled against being drawn down the abyss. Suddenly my clothes were seized by a strong hand, and I felt myself quickly drawn up to the surface of the sea; and I heard, yes, I heard these words pronounced in my ear:
    “If master would be so good as to lean on my shoulder, master would swim with much greater ease.”
    I seized with one hand my faithful Conseil’s arm.
    “Is it you?” said I, “you?”
    “Myself,” answered Conseil; “and waiting master’s orders.”
    “That shock threw you as well as me into the sea?”
    “No; but, being in my master’s service, I followed him.”
    The worthy fellow thought that was but natural.
    “And the frigate?” I asked.
    “The frigate?” replied Conseil, turning on his back; “I think that master had better not count too much on her.”
    “You think so?”
    “I say that, at the time I threw myself into the sea, I heard the men at the wheel say, ‘The screw and the rudder are broken.’”
    “Yes, broken by the monster’s teeth. It is the only injury the Abraham Lincoln has sustained. But it is a bad lookout for us—she no longer answers her helm.”
    “Then we are lost!”
    “Perhaps so,” calmly answered Conseil. “However, we have still several hours before us, and one can do a good deal in some hours.”
    Conseil’s imperturbable coolness set me up again. I swam more vigorously; but, cramped by my clothes, which stuck to me like a leaden weight, I felt great difficulty in bearing up. Conseil saw this.
    “Will master let me make a slit?” said he; and, slipping an open knife under my clothes, he ripped them up from
top to bottom very rapidly. Then he cleverly slipped them off me, while I swam for both of us.
    Then I did the same for Conseil, and we continued to swim near to each other.
    Nevertheless, our situation was no less terrible. Perhaps our disappearance had not been noticed; and, if it had been, the frigate could not tack, being without its helm. Conseil argued on this supposition, and laid his plans accordingly. This quiet boy was perfectly self-possessed. We then decided that, as our only chance of safety was being picked up by the Abraham Lincoln’ s boats, we ought to manage so as to wait for them as long as possible. I resolved then to husband our strength, so that both should not be exhausted at the same time; and this is how we managed: while one of us lay on our back, quite still, with arms crossed, and legs stretched out, the other would swim and push the other on in front. This towing business did not last more than ten minutes each; and relieving each other thus, we could swim on for some hours, perhaps till day-break. Poor chance! but hope is so firmly rooted in the heart of man! Moreover, there were two of us. Indeed I declare (though it may seem improbable) if I sought to destroy all hope—if I wished to despair, I could not.
    The collision of the frigate with the cetacean had occurred about eleven o’clock in the evening before. I reckoned then we should have eight hours to swim before sunrise, an operation quite practicable if we relieved each other. The sea, very calm, was in our favour. Sometimes I tried to pierce the intense darkness that was only dispelled by the phosphorescence caused by our movements. I watched the luminous waves that broke over my hand, whose mirror-like surface was spotted with silvery rings. One might have said that we were in a bath of quicksilver.
    Near one o’clock in the morning, I was seized with dreadful fatigue. My limbs stiffened under the strain of violent cramp. Conseil was obliged to keep me up, and our preservation devolved on him alone. I heard the poor boy
pant; his breathing became short and hurried. I found that he could not keep up much longer.

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