The Log of a Lost Soul
by Ellis Parker Butler
June 30, 1919 -- Today is the happiest day of my life. At nine o'clock this morning I am to be released from Dr. Binks's Psychopathic Hospital where I have been confined for two years. At nine o'clock I walk from these accursed confines a free man. At nine five I shall take the first drink of alcoholic liquor to pass my lips since I was incarcerated here through the cruel machinations of a heartless wife. It is my intention to make up for lost time. For many years, before I was locked up here, I was a student of the effects of alcohol on the human system. Leaving the minor phases of this great subject to others, I specialized in the study of the effect of the maximum content of alcohol on the human system. What, I asked myself, is the effect of a peak load of red liquor on the human bean? I therefore carried a maximum peak load at all times. Even my friends remarked that I was loaded early and often.
June 30, 1919, 8:45 A. M. -- I am so nervous with joy that I could whoop. A minute ago the keeper unlocked the last chain from my left leg. In a few minutes I shall be able to resume my lifework as a student of alcoholic conditions. Before I was locked up here many savants remarked that I was the man that put the stewed in student.
June 30, 1919, 9:15 P. M. -- I am free but I might as well be dead. With horror I learn that this entire nation has gone dry. Tomorrow I leave these shores forever.
June 31, 1919 -- I am off! Just as the gangplank was being raised I dashed aboard this ship. Where she is going I do not care. She is going away from here and that is enough for me.
June 32, 1919 -- I learn that the name of this staunch sailing vessel is the Camel. Is this a bad omen? A camel can go several days without drink, but the drink it can go without is water. I notice that this is a square-rigged ship; I hoped it was a schooner. I noticed, too, that in passing Sandy Hook we did not go near the bar. I fear misfortune.
June 33, 1919 -- When I learned that my native land had murdered joy I swore that the fatal day of July 1st, 1919, should never arrive for me. I meant to commit suicide, but I have not the courage to do so unless I am tanked up. Nevertheless I shall keep my oath. July shall never arrive for me. It shall always be June.
June 34, 1919 -- I would give a million dollars for a real drink. One thought alone sustains me -- each hour I am nearer some land where I can quench my thirst. The ship is making good time. The Camel is humping herself, so to speak.
June 35, 1919 -- This morning while pacing the deck I stepped on my tongue and bruised it. I feel that this is a mystery ship. When I approach any of the crew or any passenger he places his hand on his hip pocket and hurries away. Is mutiny afoot?
June 36, 1919 -- A frightful storm has arisen and the Camel is being blown out of her course. All the masts have been sheared off by the wind. The rudder is leaking.
June 57, 1919 -- The storm is dying now but the ship is a total wreck. Today the captain had the crew saw the ship in two, hoping that one-half might prove seaworthy, but his countenance shows his disappointment. Neither half is any more seaworthy than the whole was. The captain gave us our choice of taking to the bow half or the stern half. We chose the stern because this is indeed a stern business.
June 63, 1919 -- Today, about eighteen bells, the stern began to settle at the bow and the captain gave the order to man the boats. They were lowered over the larboard watch and I climbed down the ladder. It was too short and I had to drop. It was the first drop I had had since 1917. I lit on my head and for an hour I was groggy.
June 79, 1919 -- For sixteen days we have been in this small boat without food or water. I miss the food, but the ocean is not dusty in these latitudes so I have not felt the need of a bath and have not minded the lack of water. The coxswain of this boat was a Russian. He said he was a friend of Frank L. Stanton's, and I asked him his name; he said it was Havva Drinkovisky. He was weak and did not struggle much. As we do not know the burial ritual of the Russian Church we did not make use of it. The captain took charge of the boat.
June 83, 1919 -- I asked the captain today how long he thought it would be before we reached a place where we could get a couple of cocktails, but he made an evasive reply. I think he is afraid of me.
June 84, 1919 -- Today the captain made an announcement that has filled us all with joy. We are approaching land. Tonight or tomorrow we will reach Terra Firma. I have never heard of the place but I told the captain that if it was a prohibition country I would kill him.
June 84, 1919, Half-past Eleven Bells -- One of the sailors tells me that Terra Firma is not a country. It is French for solid ground. I do not like the way the captain is deceiving me by such subterfuges. I asked him point blank what land we were approaching and he made an evasive reply.
June 85, 1919 -- Land is in sight! At daylight we saw it to the westward. I unpacked my corkscrew and sharpened it on the binnacle of the starboard ratlines. For weeks the men in this boat have not reached for their hip pockets. At the sight of land all turned toward the West and burst into song, trolling forth the Little Russian national hymn, the words of which are:
"Houd rye yi yam,
Houd rye yi yam,
Noab uddi noze,
Houd rye yi yam."
It was a thrilling sight to see eighteen strong men waving their glistening corkscrews and singing thus. The captain, who is steering the boat, alone refrained from joining in the glad anthem. A shudder passed over him. He is manifestly uneasy. A few minutes ago I asked him the name of the land we are approaching. Instead of answering me he said, "I think I'll get out and walk the rest of the way." There is some hideous mystery here. Why is he afraid? Is this land we are approaching a cannibal island? Does he know it? Why does he fear to tell us its name?
June 85, 1919, Twenty-three Bells, P. M. -- The mystery of the captain's anxiety has been solved. It was solved three minutes before his untimely demise. As the boat grated on the beach we saw a native and we leaped ashore and rushed toward him. "What land is this?" I cried. His answer, reacting on the stiletto points of our corkscrews, resulted almost instantly in the death of the perfidious captain of the Camel, who had steered us to these shores. We are marooned on the Dry Tortugas.