The Monster Men HTML version

Chapter 8. The Soul Of Number 13
Scarcely had the Ithaca cleared the reef which lies almost across the mouth of the little
harbor where she had been moored for so many months than the tempest broke upon her
in all its terrific fury. Bududreen was no mean sailor, but he was short handed, nor is it
reasonable to suppose that even with a full crew he could have weathered the terrific gale
which beat down upon the hapless vessel. Buffeted by great waves, and stripped of every
shred of canvas by the force of the mighty wind that howled about her, the Ithaca drifted
a hopeless wreck soon after the storm struck her.
Below deck the terrified girl clung desperately to a stanchion as the stricken ship lunged
sickeningly before the hurricane. For half an hour the awful suspense endured, and then
with a terrific crash the vessel struck, shivering and trembling from stem to stern.
Virginia Maxon sank to her knees in prayer, for this she thought must surely be the end.
On deck Bududreen and his crew had lashed themselves to the masts, and as the Ithaca
struck the reef before the harbor, back upon which she had been driven, the tall poles
with their living freight snapped at the deck and went overboard carrying every thing
with them amid shrieks and cries of terror that were drowned and choked by the wild
tumult of the night.
Twice the girl felt the ship strike upon the reef, then a great wave caught and carried her
high into the air, dropping her with a nauseating lunge which seemed to the imprisoned
girl to be carrying the ship to the very bottom of the ocean. With closed eyes she clung in
silent prayer beside her berth waiting for the moment that would bring the engulfing
waters and oblivion-- praying that the end might come speedily and release her from the
torture of nervous apprehension that had terrorized her for what seemed an eternity.
After the last, long dive the Ithaca righted herself laboriously, wallowing drunkenly, but
apparently upon an even keel in less turbulent waters. One long minute dragged after
another, yet no suffocating deluge poured in upon the girl, and presently she realized that
the ship had, at least temporarily, weathered the awful buffeting of the savage elements.
Now she felt but a gentle roll, though the wild turmoil of the storm still came to her ears
through the heavy planking of the Ithaca's hull.
For a long hour she lay wondering what fate had overtaken the vessel and whither she
had been driven, and then, with a gentle grinding sound, the ship stopped, swung around,
and finally came to rest with a slight list to starboard. The wind howled about her, the
torrential rain beat loudly upon her, but except for a slight rocking the ship lay quiet.
Hours passed with no other sounds than those of the rapidly waning tempest. The girl
heard no signs of life upon the ship. Her curiosity became more and more keenly aroused.
She had that indefinable, intuitive feeling that she was utterly alone upon the vessel, and
at length, unable to endure the inaction and uncertainty longer, made her way to the
companion ladder where for half an hour she futilely attempted to remove the hatch.