Chapter 25

“You’ve been on deck, Mr. Van Weyden,” Wolf Larsen said, the following morning at the breakfast-table, “How do things look?”

“Clear enough,” I answered, glancing at the sunshine which streamed down the open companion-way. “Fair westerly breeze, with a promise of stiffening, if Louis predicts correctly.”

He nodded his head in a pleased way. “Any signs of fog?”

“Thick banks in the north and north-west.”

He nodded his head again, evincing even greater satisfaction than before.

“What of the Macedonia?”

“Not sighted,” I answered.

I could have sworn his face fell at the intelligence, but why he should be disappointed I could not conceive.

I was soon to learn. “Smoke ho!” came the hail from on deck, and his face brightened.

“Good!” he exclaimed, and left the table at once to go on deck and into the steerage, where the hunters were taking the first breakfast of their exile.

Maud Brewster and I scarcely touched the food before us, gazing, instead, in silent anxiety at each other, and listening to Wolf Larsen’s voice, which easily penetrated the cabin through the intervening bulkhead. He spoke at length, and his conclusion was greeted with a wild roar of cheers. The bulkhead was too thick for us to hear what he said; but whatever it was it affected the hunters strongly, for the cheering was followed by loud exclamations and shouts of joy.

From the sounds on deck I knew that the sailors had been routed out and were preparing to lower the boats. Maud Brewster accompanied me on deck, but I left her at the break of the poop, where she might watch the scene and not be in it. The sailors must have learned whatever project was on hand, and the vim and snap they put into their work attested their enthusiasm. The hunters came trooping on deck with shot-guns and ammunition-boxes, and, most unusual, their rifles. The latter were rarely taken in the boats, for a seal shot at long range with a rifle invariably sank before a boat could reach it. But each hunter this day had his rifle and a large supply of cartridges. I noticed they grinned with satisfaction whenever they looked at the Macedonia’s smoke, which was rising higher and higher as she approached from the west.

The five boats went over the side with a rush, spread out like the ribs of a fan, and set a northerly course, as on the preceding afternoon, for us to follow. I watched for some time, curiously, but there seemed nothing extraordinary about their behaviour. They lowered sails, shot seals, and hoisted sails again, and continued on their way as I had always seen them do. The Macedonia repeated her performance of yesterday, “hogging” the sea by dropping her line of boats in advance of ours and across our course. Fourteen boats require a considerable spread of ocean for comfortable hunting, and when she had completely lapped our line she continued steaming into the north-east, dropping more boats as she went.

“What’s up?” I asked Wolf Larsen, unable longer to keep my curiosity in check.

“Never mind what’s up,” he answered gruffly. “You won’t be a thousand years in finding out, and in the meantime just pray for plenty of wind.”

“Oh, well, I don’t mind telling you,” he said the next moment. “I’m going to give that brother of mine a taste of his own medicine. In short, I’m going to play the hog myself, and not for one day, but for the rest of the season, - if we’re in luck.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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