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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/852

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

stiff wi' th' tiller; y'hear me? W don't ye dare to make thet sheet fast, 'r ye'll die so sudden y' won't know whar y'r hurted." I said as cheerfully as I could, "All right, sir," trying to look unconcerned, telling myself not to be a coward, and all sorts of things; but the cold truth is that I was scared almost to death, because I didn't know what was coming. However, I did the best thing under the circumstances, obeyed orders and looked steadily astern, or up into the bronzed impassive face of my chief, who towered above me, scanning with eagle eyes the sea ahead. The other boats were coming flying along behind us, spreading wider apart as they came, while in the bows of each stood the harpooner with his right hand on his first iron, which lay ready, pointing over the bow in a raised fork of wood called the "crutch."

All of a sudden, at a motion of the chief's hand, the peak of our mainsail was dropped, and the boat swung up into the wind, laying "hove to," almost stationary. The centerboard was lowered to stop her drifting to leeward, although I can not say it made much difference that ever I saw. Now, what's the matter? I thought, when to my amazement the chief addressing me said, "Wonder why we've hauled up, don't ye?" "Yes, sir, I do," said I. "Wall," said he, "the fish hev sounded, an' 'ef we run over 'em, we've seen the last ov 'em. So we wait awhile till they rise agin, 'n then we'll prob'ly git thar' 'r thareabouts before they sound agin." With this explanation I had to be content, although if it be no clearer to my readers than it then was to me, I shall have to explain myself more fully later on. Silently we lay, rocking lazily upon the gentle swell, no other word being spoken by any one. At last Louis, the harpooner, gently breathed "Blo-o-o-w"; and there, sure enough, not half a mile away on the lee beam, was a little bushy cloud of steam apparently rising from the sea. At almost the same time as we kept away all the other boats did likewise, and just then, catching sight of the ship, the reason for this apparently concerted action was explained. At the mainmast head of the ship was a square blue flag, and the ensign at the peak was being dipped. These were signals well understood and promptly acted upon by those in charge of the boats, who were thus guided from a point of view at least one hundred feet above the sea.

"Stand up, Louey," the mate murmured softly. I only just stopped myself in time from turning my head to see why the order was given. Suddenly there was a bump, at the same moment the mate yelled, "Give't to him, Louey, give't to him!" and to me, "Haul that main sheet, naow haul, why don't ye?" I hauled it flat aft, and the boat shot up into the wind, rubbing sides as she did so with what to my troubled sight seemed an enormous mass of black India rubber floating. As we crawled up into the wind, the whale went into con-