Chapter 19

I came on deck to find the Ghost heading up close on the port tack and cutting in to windward of a familiar spritsail close-hauled on the same tack ahead of us. All hands were on deck, for they knew that something was to happen when Leach and Johnson were dragged aboard.

It was four bells. Louis came aft to relieve the wheel. There was a dampness in the air, and I noticed he had on his oilskins.

“What are we going to have?” I asked him.

“A healthy young slip of a gale from the breath iv it, sir,” he answered, “with a splatter iv rain just to wet our gills an’ no more.”

“Too bad we sighted them,” I said, as the Ghost’s bow was flung off a point by a large sea and the boat leaped for a moment past the jibs and into our line of vision.

Louis gave a spoke and temporized. “They’d never iv made the land, sir, I’m thinkin’.”

“Think not?” I queried.

“No, sir. Did you feel that?” (A puff had caught the schooner, and he was forced to put the wheel up rapidly to keep her out of the wind.) “’Tis no egg-shell’ll float on this sea an hour come, an’ it’s a stroke iv luck for them we’re here to pick ’em up.”

Wolf Larsen strode aft from amidships, where he had been talking with the rescued men. The cat-like springiness in his tread was a little more pronounced than usual, and his eyes were bright and snappy.

“Three oilers and a fourth engineer,” was his greeting. “But we’ll make sailors out of them, or boat-pullers at any rate. Now, what of the lady?”

I know not why, but I was aware of a twinge or pang like the cut of a knife when he mentioned her. I thought it a certain silly fastidiousness on my part, but it persisted in spite of me, and I merely shrugged my shoulders in answer.

Wolf Larsen pursed his lips in a long, quizzical whistle.

“What’s her name, then?” he demanded.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “She is asleep. She was very tired. In fact, I am waiting to hear the news from you. What vessel was it?”

“Mail steamer,” he answered shortly. “The City of Tokio, from ’Frisco, bound for Yokohama. Disabled in that typhoon. Old tub. Opened up top and bottom like a sieve. They were adrift four days. And you don’t know who or what she is, eh? - maid, wife, or widow? Well, well.”

He shook his head in a bantering way, and regarded me with laughing eyes.

“Are you - “ I began. It was on the verge of my tongue to ask if he were going to take the castaways into Yokohama.

“Am I what?” he asked.

“What do you intend doing with Leach and Johnson?”

He shook his head. “Really, Hump, I don’t know. You see, with these additions I’ve about all the crew I want.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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