“And if we’re not?” I queried.

“Not to be considered,” he laughed. “We simply must be in luck, or it’s all up with us.”

He had the wheel at the time, and I went forward to my hospital in the forecastle, where lay the two crippled men, Nilson and Thomas Mugridge. Nilson was as cheerful as could be expected, for his broken leg was knitting nicely; but the Cockney was desperately melancholy, and I was aware of a great sympathy for the unfortunate creature. And the marvel of it was that still he lived and clung to life. The brutal years had reduced his meagre body to splintered wreckage, and yet the spark of life within burned brightly as ever.

“With an artificial foot - and they make excellent ones - you will be stumping ships’ galleys to the end of time,” I assured him jovially.

But his answer was serious, nay, solemn. “I don’t know about wot you s’y, Mr. Van W’yden, but I do know I’ll never rest ’appy till I see that ’ell-’ound bloody well dead. ’E cawn’t live as long as me. ’E’s got no right to live, an’ as the Good Word puts it, ’’E shall shorely die,’ an’ I s’y, ’Amen, an’ damn soon at that.’”

When I returned on deck I found Wolf Larsen steering mainly with one hand, while with the other hand he held the marine glasses and studied the situation of the boats, paying particular attention to the position of the Macedonia. The only change noticeable in our boats was that they had hauled close on the wind and were heading several points west of north. Still, I could not see the expediency of the manoeuvre, for the free sea was still intercepted by the Macedonia’s five weather boats, which, in turn, had hauled close on the wind. Thus they slowly diverged toward the west, drawing farther away from the remainder of the boats in their line. Our boats were rowing as well as sailing. Even the hunters were pulling, and with three pairs of oars in the water they rapidly overhauled what I may appropriately term the enemy.

The smoke of the Macedonia had dwindled to a dim blot on the north- eastern horizon. Of the steamer herself nothing was to be seen. We had been loafing along, till now, our sails shaking half the time and spilling the wind; and twice, for short periods, we had been hove to. But there was no more loafing. Sheets were trimmed, and Wolf Larsen proceeded to put the Ghost through her paces. We ran past our line of boats and bore down upon the first weather boat of the other line.

“Down that flying jib, Mr. Van Weyden,” Wolf Larsen commanded. “And stand by to back over the jibs.”

I ran forward and had the downhaul of the flying jib all in and fast as we slipped by the boat a hundred feet to leeward. The three men in it gazed at us suspiciously. They had been hogging the sea, and they knew Wolf Larsen, by reputation at any rate. I noted that the hunter, a huge Scandinavian sitting in the bow, held his rifle, ready to hand, across his knees. It should have been in its proper place in the rack. When they came opposite our stern, Wolf Larsen greeted them with a wave of the hand, and cried:

“Come on board and have a ’gam’!”

“To gam,” among the sealing-schooners, is a substitute for the verbs “to visit,” “to gossip.” It expresses the garrulity of the sea, and is a pleasant break in the monotony of the life.

The Ghost swung around into the wind, and I finished my work forward in time to run aft and lend a hand with the mainsheet.

“You will please stay on deck, Miss Brewster,” Wolf Larsen said, as he started forward to meet his guest. “And you too, Mr. Van Weyden.”

The boat had lowered its sail and run alongside. The hunter, golden bearded like a sea-king, came over the rail and dropped on deck. But his hugeness could not quite overcome his apprehensiveness.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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