A Man's Woman HTML version

Chapter II.
By eleven o'clock at night the gale had increased to such an extent and the sea
had begun to build so high that it was a question whether or not the whaleboat
would ride the storm. Bennett finally decided that it would be impossible to reach
the land—stretching out in a long, dark blur to the southwest—that night, and that
the boat must run before the wind if he was to keep her afloat. The number two
cutter, with Ferriss in command, was a bad sailer, and had fallen astern. She was
already out of hailing distance; but Bennett, who was at the whaleboat's tiller, in
the instant's glance that he dared to shoot behind him saw with satisfaction that
Ferriss had followed his example.
The whaleboat and the number two cutter were the only boats now left to the
expedition. The third boat had been abandoned long before they had reached
open water.
An hour later Adler, the sailing-master, who had been bailing, and who sat facing
Bennett, looked back through the storm; then, turning to Bennett, said:
"Beg pardon, sir, I think they are signalling us."
Bennett did not answer, but, with his hand gripping the tiller, kept his face to the
front, his glance alternating between the heaving prow of the boat and the huge
gray billows hissing with froth careering rapidly alongside. To pause for a
moment, to vary by ever so little from the course of the storm, might mean the
drowning of them all. After a few moments Adler spoke again, touching his cap.
"I'm sure I see a signal, sir."
"No, you don't," answered Bennett.
"Beg pardon, I'm quite sure I do."
Bennett leaned toward him, the cast in his eyes twinkling with a wicked light, the
furrow between the eyebrows deepening. "I tell you, you don't see any signal; do
you understand? You don't see any signal until I choose to have you."
The night was bitter hard for the occupants of the whaleboat. In their weakened
condition they were in no shape to fight a polar hurricane in an open boat.
For three weeks they had not known the meaning of full rations. During the first
days after the line of march over the ice had been abruptly changed to the west
in the hope of reaching open water, only three-quarter rations had been issued,
and now for the last two days half rations had been their portion. The gnawing of