Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/369

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sailors, more brutalized than the rest, broke out with the words:


"Here we are, sixteen of us, perishing for food, and what prospect is there before us? Would n't it be better—"

He hesitated, while his companions held their breath and comprehended what was in his mind.

"Damn all ceremony!" was the conclusion which they expected and yet dreaded to hear. "One man must die that the rest may live, and that 's the bloody truth of it."


They agreed with him, nodding their heads and refusing to look at one another. Then followed a long dispute over the fairest manner of letting chance decide the choice. It was obvious that every man had a natural anxiety to feel assured of no loaded dice or marked cards in this momentous game. There were objections to the traditional lottery of high and low numbers, and finally it was decided that sixteen pieces of rope-yarn should be cut by the mate. Fourteen of these were to be of precisely the same length, one a little shorter, and another shorter still. The sixteen pieces of rope-yarn were to be shoved through a crack in the bulk-head of the steward's storeroom, the ends all even and just long enough for a man to take one in his fingers and pull it through the crack. The one who