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The Sea Wolf 90







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The Sea Wolf




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 Macedonias 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. "Whats up?" I asked Wolf Larsen, unable longer to keep my curiosity in check. "Never mind whats up," he answered gruffly. "You wont be a thousand years in finding out, and in the meantime just pray for plenty of wind." "Oh, well, I dont mind telling you," he said the next moment. "Im going to give that brother of mine a taste of his own medicine. In short, Im going to play the hog myself, and not for one day, but for the rest of the season,--if were in luck." "And if were not?" I queried. "Not to be considered," he laughed. "We simply must be in luck, or its 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 dont know about wot you sy, Mr. Van Wyden, but I do know Ill never rest appy till I see that ell-ound bloody well dead. E cawnt live as long as me. Es got no right to live, an as the Good Word puts it, E shall shorely die, an I sy, 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 Macedonias 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

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