« AnkstesnisTęsti »
A strange expression came into the mate's countenance, but he did not reply.
Schroeder, hanging on to the rig ging, continued to search the water around him. All at once he made a quick movement and seemed about to speak, but checked himself.
Five minutes passed, and then he made another quick movement, while a savage look disfigured his good-natured features.
"Man! are you blind?" he exclaimed, gripping Thorstein's shoulder shaking it. "What is that yonder?" He relaxed his grasp on the mate and pointed.
Half a mile off the starboard bow a shining black and rounded object rose above the surface. Thorstein, as if unwillingly, turned his eyes to it. It disappeared.
"Are you blind? With my own eyes I saw him rise-twice. You fool! You have not been watching."
"I have been watching, kaptein. He was only a very small sejhval." The speaker was trembling.
"You lie! It was the head of a great"-Schroeder stopped short.
The sea appeared to burst open, and a monstrous, unwieldly-looking, dripping creature, bearing a small hump in place of a dorsal, and gigantic pectorals, shot clear above the surface, and fell back with an amazing crash amid fountains of foam.
"Hval! hval!" yelled Schroeder at the top of his voice, and the crew hurried to their posts. Then he turned to Thorstein. "So," he said wrathfully, "you would cheat me because of a crazy dream. You would cheat me of the greatest knölhral I have ever seen. Go on deck, and keep out of my way. Go to your bunk, you that are afraid of a knöl"
"I have no more to do with you. Only keep out of my way. Ugh!"
And Kaptein Schroder descended rapidly to the deck, where he immediately selected a man to take Thorstein's place. Next he gave instructions for letting the sejhral go adrift with a flag stuck in it.
Thorstein on reaching the deck looked appealingly in his captain's direction, but, being utterly ignored, went dejectedly aft.
The knölhval-or humpback, to use a more familiar name-continued to gambol in his ungainly ways while the Haakon drew near him. He rolled about at the surface, exhibiting his tremendous "wings;" he stood upright in his element, poking his warty head above water; he made unexpected rushes here and there; and once more he hurled his hundred tons of bone, flesh, and blubber into the air.
"The greatest knöl I have ever seen," said Schroeder to himself as he screwed a grenade on the harpoon. "After all, I shall please them at the station to-morrow. not be so bad."
Forty barrels will
But he did not sing as he usually did while preparing for action. The thought of the mate's deception rankled. Besides, he missed the mate's assistance. The man now in the crow's-nest would do his best, but his experience was small.
However, Kaptein Schroeder hoped to fire a good first shot which would make the struggle a brief one. And certainly the humpback did his best to make it so, for, after a little more play, he came leisurely to meet the Haakon. Perhaps her bluish-gray bottom deceived him into thinking her a friend.
Schroeder held up his hand for "stop." As the Haakon lay, the humpback, if he continued his course, would cross her bows.
But suddenly the propeller-like motion of his flukes ceased; it appeared as of he were gathering himself to
gether for another rush or a downward plunge.
Believing that he was going to sound, the gunner took a quick aim and pressed the trigger.
It was a long shot, and not a very good one. It struck too far abaft the flipper; and though a muffled thump, as the mighty tail flew up, told that the grenade had duly exploded, Schroeder knew. that death was still far away.
The cable ran out spasmodically till its length was almost exhausted, when the winch brakes were applied, and the Haakon began to forge slowly ahead. Ere long the humpback appeared at the surface, roaring and grunting, and struggling frightfully to free himself, rolling to and fro, lashing about his flukes, and broaching half out of the water-an agony shocking and sickening for any man save a whaleman to witness. Then he took to "bolting," making violent diagonal rushes; till, finding that also vain, he set off at a little distance beneath the surface, towing the Haakon at several miles an hour.
Meanwhile the gun had been reloaded, and when the pace of the humpback began to slacken the winch was set going, and cautiously the cable was reeled in until once more the Haakon was within shooting distance.
Yet again the luck was against the gunner. His shot was a good one, but the bomb failed to explode. And the knöl sounded so violently that the first cable-the winch-man having let go an instant too late-parted with a loud snap close to the bow, while the Haakon quivered to her sternpost.
An hour passed, during which the knöl repeated his frantic efforts for freedom, and then came an opportunity for a third shot. As he stood by the gun Kaptein Schroeder threw an uneasy glance around him. A change in the weather was imminent.
ish-black clouds were swiftly gathering, and the sun was already obscured. A breeze, light but very bitter, ruffled the gray ocean, and the ice-fog had changed to white and seemed nearer. A flake of snow fell on the red gun.
The winch clanked and the Haakon forged towards the whale, now lying almost motionless. But when the bolt struck him he was off again, like a runner who has got his second wind. Yet it was a deadly shot, and a smaller whale would have died speedily. With three harpoons in him and two cables behind him, however, his spurt was of short duration. Within a few inutes he was up again, spouting crimson and roaring through his blowholes.
"He dies!" said Kaptein Schroeder with a grunt of relief.
"Nei, kaptein. He dies not yet." The skipper wheeled around. “Get away!" he snapped.
Thorstein's pallid face flushed momentarily, and he stepped from the gun-platform, but did not go far aft.
The captain signed to the men at the winches to wind in. They had not. proceeded, far when the humpback seemed to revive and resumed his struggles. "Another harpoon-quick!" cried Schroeder, sponging out the gun, and nodding to the winch-men to continue winding. He shouted for half-speed ahead.
From his pocket he took a small cotton bag containing a charge of powder, rammed it home in the gun, and followed it up with a wad. Four minutes later the slotted shaft of the harpoon filled the barrel, the bomb was affixed, the Krupp's screw for firing the charge was adjusted, and all wasprepared. This time no cable was attached to the harpoon.
Crash! went the gun at close quarters, and the muffled echo followed. "Now he dies!"
"Nei, kaptein, he dies not yet. tein, I will give you every kroner I have if you will let him go. Kaptein!" "You fool! What do you mean?" Thorstein hung his head. Every man on deck was staring at him,
"Go aft!" commanded Schroeder. The mate hesitated, and then walked slowly away.
"He dies!" said Schroeder to the men.
"See, it is the flurry!"
The humpback was beating the water into scarlet froth. Presently he lay still, but he was not dead. He did not turn on his side, nor did he sink. Internally he must have been an awful ruin. Yet he lived.
The captain went to the galley and drank a cup of scalding coffee. Many whales had he killed; some had died quickly, others slowly. But none save one great cachalot had received four shots-three of them good-and yet clung to the ghost like this knölhval.
He returned to the platform in thickly falling snow. "Now he dies! Bring me a lance."
The winches were started, and soon the humpback was lying under the port bow. Now and then a shudder passed over the monstrous bulk; the tail-flukes moved feebly.
"Now he dies!"
Steadying himself against a stay, Schroder grasped the long lance-pole with both hands and raised it preparatory to plunging the point through blubber and flesh into the mighy heart beneath him.
But the blow did not fall. In the twinkling of an eye the humpback's tail flew up, and came down with a shivering smash against the Haakon's bull.
"Full speed astern!" and back went the Haakon with a couple of her plates --upper ones, fortunately-badly started.
The whale rolled from side to side a dozen times, and lay still.
LIVING AGE. VOL. XLIV. 2316
"Lower away the pram," ordered Schroeder, cursing the snow and the freshening wind-and the dead sejhval, which was now nowhere to be seen. The small double-bowed boat was soon lying alongside.
Schroeder chose a couple of men to go with him, and they dropped into the pram. He was about to follow. when Thorstein gripped his arm. The styrmand's face was working terribly. "Let me go. Let me lance him, kaptein," he gasped.
"Nei, nei!" came the impatient an
"Kaptein, let me go. I have been a fool-I am sorry-I ask pardon. Let me go. I want revenge on the knöl that made me foolish."
Schroeder pushed him aside, but again his arm was gripped.
"Kaptein, I will never ask another favor. I will leave your sight when you ask me. But let me go to lance this knöl. If-if you do not, I shall be a shamed man-a coward-all my days. My son will mock me."
The captain was touched "You are not fit to lance a whale, Thorstein," he said. "I cannot"
"I have lanced many whales. I have never made a mistake. What can I say, kaptein? You are a brave man. You must understand. Shall I go down on my knees to you? Let me go to lance this knöl. Then-then shall I dream no more foolish dreams; no more shall I deceive my good kaptein. Let me go."
Schroeder wavered. "Are you sure you can do it?"
"You will see!-you will see! Behold my hands! They are steady now! The madness has left me. And afterwards you, my kaptein, will tell my son that I did well. Let me go." Schroeder gave ir.
With a ghastly smile Thorstein went over the side. As the boat was rowed towards the whale, which now lay
quiet, seemingly exhausted, he waved bis hand.
The captain would fain have called him back. He told two men to be ready with the second small boat in case of emergencies.
The rowers, with their oars poised for dipping, waited breathlessly for the final assault.
Thorstein stood erect, grasping the lance, as brave a figure of a man as ever faced death, knowing it to be death.
The whale scarcely moved.
Thorstein marked the vital spot with his eye, drew a deep breath, and drove in the lance. The knöl rolled over, away from the boat, the huge, fringed, pectoral fin, with its reach of some fourteen feet, waving stiffly aloft.
An oar snapped. Back rolled the knöl, and down came the huge pectoral, a ton of bone and muscle. Men and boat disappeared.
The Haakon went back to Sigluefjord with her captures, but with her flag half-mast. She carried three dead men-dead men, cruelly broken and bruised. The living were ready to testify that the tragedy had been no
body's fault-an accident that might have happened to any whalemen.
It was some time before Kaptein Schroder could talk about it, and it was not until the following year that he fully realized what had happened. He had gone one day to visit the widow and her son, for whom he had done many kindnesses since the disaster.
To reach Pomerania one should go back by that same way our AngloSaxon ancestors reached Britain-by the North Sea, skirting the coast of Holland-by the swan's path, the whale's road-a road unaltered since the brown-sailed Viking boats first crossed it, for the sea can never change. Returning thus, old half-forgotten history becomes vivid and very real. For along that path went Canute, the great Danish King of Eng
"It is strange," said the widow just before he left-"it is strange that Thorstein did not dream of what was going to happen. I have been thinking of it all the winter. For he dreamed of it before our little daughter died; and he dreamed of it before our son fell from the cliff. Perhaps he could dream only of the evil that would happen to others that he loved. He loved not so many people. But myself and his children he loved; and you also, kaptein-you also."
And Kaptein Schroder, as he stood that night in the steering-box, waiting for a strange mate to relieve him, recalled certain words of his old styrmand: "When it is well with you, kaptein, it is well with me." And, perhaps, also-though he was no dreamer-he heard the sound of a heart weeping.
J. J, Bell.
IN A GERMAN COUNTRY HOUSE.
land, to fight against the fierce and heathen Wends who conquered the Baltic shores, and threatened his Danish kingdom on the east. On that same unchanging pathway I saw the sun go down in glory in a molten silver sea, while on the left lay Helgoland, a blue shadow dimly seen, and on the right the long, low German coastline. I saw the sun rise again over the narrowing Elbe bank, very flat and gannet-haunted, sheltering
many little brown-sailed fishing-boats. Lineal descendants, perhaps, these boats, of those dark-sailed Viking keels which the old Emperor Charlemagne, the conqueror of half the world, saw beating up the Seine-and wept and tore his hoary beard in anguish at the sight. Then I must traverse the long, interminable, flat and sandy stretches of dune and forest, forest and dune, which bring home to the most heedless traveller the fact that this is part of the central plain of Europe mentioned in all geographies. Great, wide, level fields, lakes, and slow, sluggish rivers, with white, deliberate storks frogcatching along their banks, and pine forests, above all pine forests-these were my first impressions of Pomerania. Every now and then, too, a little quaint village of black and white houses deeply thatched with storks' nests atop, a slender church spire, and not far away from it an enormous mansion, sometimes towered and turreted like an old castle, sometimes high-roofed and ornate like a modern French château, but always dominating the little village by its stateliness and grandeur. For Pomerania is well known as the land of great estates and large proprietors, a stronghold of the "Junker" party of German politics, and each big estate or "Landgut" has its "Schloss," in which resides, year in, year out, the noble family who are its
"Life on a Pomeranian 'Landgut' is one of the pleasantest in the world," one who knew it well assured meand I was about to try it for myself for the first time. At last, at one of the little wayside stations of Hither Pomerania, a tiny red-brick island in a great pine-forest, I found a substantial-looking mail phaeton with a stout pair of useful horses, and a very smart liveried and cockaded coachman, who clicked his heels together, and, bowing swept his hat through the air
with a grace unknown in England. "For Schloss Japenzin?" said heand we drove away through the forest by a wide road only stoned upon one side, the other half of the natural sand, loose and dusty in the extreme. This was the main road, but presently we turned into a side-track, sandy, deeply rutted, diversified by great loose boulders which apparently nobody had ever thought of moving out of the waya track never stoned or mended, but just worn in the sand.
Now I perceived the reason of the strongly-built carriage and the stout horses. The phaeton bumped and jumped, the coachman jerked about on the box, and I was obliged to hold on tightly inside to avoid disaster. If the roads were like this in the summertime, what would be their state in winter weather? And how deep must be the isolation of these great houses, miles from any railway, and cut off from one another by such roads-roads which, as I heard later, were sometimes almost impassable even with four horses to a carriage.
At last the coachman pointed out a tall white tower glittering in the distance among thick trees.
"Schloss Japenzin," said he.
Japenzin, like very many of these Pomeranian mansions, is approached through its farmyard. We drove past a cluster of peasants' cottages, then through long ranges of cow-sheds, sheep byres, piggeries and stables, black and white, thatched and picturesque, with storks' nests on the roof ridges and all the indispensable litter of farm work about them till we reached the great veranda which shelters the front door. There my hosts, Graf and Gräfin Von Stein, met me with a welcome so kindly, so hospitable, that the veriest stranger must have felt at home at once.
The simplicity and charm of daily life at Japenzin carried me back a hun