Once it began, the thing went ahead beyond all fighting. For a day or so we did our best, and I can still remember in my limbs and back the pumping—the fatigue in my arms and the memory of a clear little dribble of water that jerked as one pumped, and of knocking off and the being awakened to go on again, and of fatigue piling up upon fatigue. At last we ceased to think of anything but pumping; one became a thing of torment enchanted, doomed to pump for ever. I still remember it as pure relief when at last Pollack came to me pipe in mouth.
"The captain says the damned thing's going down right now," he remarked chewing his mouthpiece. "Eh?"
"Good idea!" I said. "One can't go on pumping for ever."
And without hurry or alacrity, sullenly and wearily we got into the boats and pulled away from the Maud Mary until we were clear of her, and then we stayed resting on our oars, motionless upon a glassy sea, waiting for her to sink. We were all silent, even the captain was silent until she went down. And then he spoke quite mildly in an undertone.
"Dat is the first ship I haf ever lost. . . . And it was not a fair game! It wass not a cargo any man should take. No!"
I stared at the slow eddies that circled above the departed Maud Mary, and the last chance of Business Organizations. I felt weary beyond emotion. I thought of my heroics to Beatrice and my uncle, of my prompt "I'll go," and of all the ineffectual months I had spent after this headlong decision. I was moved to laughter at myself and fate.
But the captain and the men did not laugh. The