The Sea Wolf HTML version

Chapter 28
There is no need of going into an extended recital of our suffering in the small boat
during the many days we were driven and drifted, here and there, willy-nilly, across the
ocean. The high wind blew from the north-west for twenty-four hours, when it fell calm,
and in the night sprang up from the south-west. This was dead in our teeth, but I took in
the sea-anchor and set sail, hauling a course on the wind which took us in a south-south-
easterly direction. It was an even choice between this and the west-north-westerly course
which the wind permitted; but the warm airs of the south fanned my desire for a warmer
sea and swayed my decision.
In three hours - it was midnight, I well remember, and as dark as I had ever seen it on the
sea - the wind, still blowing out of the south-west, rose furiously, and once again I was
compelled to set the sea-anchor.
Day broke and found me wan-eyed and the ocean lashed white, the boat pitching, almost
on end, to its drag. We were in imminent danger of being swamped by the whitecaps. As
it was, spray and spume came aboard in such quantities that I bailed without cessation.
The blankets were soaking. Everything was wet except Maud, and she, in oilskins, rubber
boots, and sou'wester, was dry, all but her face and hands and a stray wisp of hair. She
relieved me at the bailing-hole from time to time, and bravely she threw out the water and
faced the storm. All things are relative. It was no more than a stiff blow, but to us,
fighting for life in our frail craft, it was indeed a storm.
Cold and cheerless, the wind beating on our faces, the white seas roaring by, we struggled
through the day. Night came, but neither of us slept. Day came, and still the wind beat on
our faces and the white seas roared past. By the second night Maud was falling asleep
from exhaustion. I covered her with oilskins and a tarpaulin. She was comparatively dry,
but she was numb with the cold. I feared greatly that she might die in the night; but day
broke, cold and cheerless, with the same clouded sky and beating wind and roaring seas.
I had had no sleep for forty-eight hours. I was wet and chilled to the marrow, till I felt
more dead than alive. My body was stiff from exertion as well as from cold, and my
aching muscles gave me the severest torture whenever I used them, and I used them
continually. And all the time we were being driven off into the north-east, directly away
from Japan and toward bleak Bering Sea.
And still we lived, and the boat lived, and the wind blew unabated. In fact, toward
nightfall of the third day it increased a trifle and something more. The boat's bow plunged
under a crest, and we came through quarter-full of water. I bailed like a madman. The
liability of shipping another such sea was enormously increased by the water that
weighed the boat down and robbed it of its buoyancy. And another such sea meant the
end. When I had the boat empty again I was forced to take away the tarpaulin which
covered Maud, in order that I might lash it down across the bow. It was well I did, for it