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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Deep Sea Hunters in the Frozen Seas » CHAPTER VII THE GLACIER
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 Now that the excitement was over and the boys had a chance to look about, they searched the sea for Mr. Kemp. But nowhere was he to be seen. Then their glance turned towards the schooner, and Tom uttered a frightened cry.
“The Narwhal’s gone!”
Cap’n Pem turned from where he was directing the men as they labored to get a fluke chain about the dead whale’s tail, shaded his eyes and swept a swift glance around the horizon. “Reckon she are,” he remarked quite undisturbed. “Get a waif up, Nate,” he continued, addressing the boat steerer. “Swan if I know whar she be. An’ looks like Kemp’s hull down, too.”
“But what will we do?” cried Jim. “How can we get to the Narwhal?”
“Won’t,” replied the old whaleman, once more bending to his work. “Let the schooner come to[83] us. Reckon the skipper hain’t los’ track o’ us.”
“Ye see,” explained the boat steerer as he fastened a red flag to the mast and, with two of the men to help him, stepped the spar, “folks ’board the schooner can see us a heap farther than we kin see them. They’ll be havin’ a lookout to the to’gallan’ crosstrees an’ keep track o’ where we be.”
“Oh, I understand,” said Tom. “But say, Nate, why did you go for the head of that whale? When we were on the Hector they were always careful to go on them from the tail end.”
“Them was sparm whales,” replied the boat steerer. “A sparm whale kin see for’rard but not aft, an’ a right whale or bowhead kin see aft an’ not for’rard. ’Sides, a sparm fights mos’ly with his jaw an’ a right or a bowhead fights with his flukes. ‘Bewar’ o’ a sparm’s jaws an’ a right whale’s flukes,’ is a ol’ whalin’ motter.”
“But what’s become of Mr. Kemp, do you suppose?” queried Jim. “Do you think anything’s happened to him?”
“Naw, I guess he’s jus’ been towed out o’ sight,” declared Nate. “Anyhow it’s every man for hisself a-goin’ arter whales. Reckon the Old Man kin see him.”
The fluke chain was now fast about the whale’s[84] “small,” as the portion of the creature’s body near the tail is called, and the boat, fastened to it by the stout hemp line, rode as steadily and as easily as though moored to an island. The immense carcass formed a lee, and the oil oozing from his wounds, smoothed the water, making a broad “slick.”
“Purty good-sized critter,” commented Cap’n Pem, as he seated himself and lit his pipe. “Bet ye he’ll turn a hundred bar’ls, an’ nigh half a ton o’ bone. Put up a right smart fight though—blowed if he didn’t. Waall, boys, how did ye like the fun?”
“Fine, now it’s over,” laughed Jim. “But I admit I wished I was on the Narwhal a good many times while that old whale was thrashing around with his flukes.”
“Gosh, but he did come near smashing us!” cried Tom. “Just the same, I’m glad we were here, and that the first time we went in on a whale he was a fighter. Say, won’t the boys back home open their eyes when we tell them about this?”
“Oh, there’s the Narwhal!” exclaimed Jim, who had stood up and was gazing about. “And not a bit where I expected her to be.”
“Waall, if ye could ha’ kep’ track o’ which way was which, ye’d ’a been a heap sight better’n I be at keepin’ my bearin’s,” chuckled Cap’n Pem. “By[85] heck, fer a spell I actooaly did think that there ol’ whale was a-goin’ fer to git the best on us.”
“Would have if ye hadn’t a-fetched him as we run over his back,” declared one of the men. “By glory, Cap’n, that was some stunt ye pulled off. But say, it mos’ made me split, a-seein’ of ye a-diggin’ that lance into the water like as if ye was a-spearin’ eels.”
“Shucks, that weren’t nothin’,” declared Cap’n Pem. “I don’ calc’late to miss a chanct even if the dumb critter do sound jes when I’m a-gettin’ ready fer to lance him.”
“But he almost wrecked us!” exclaimed Tom. “If he’d come up a second sooner, he would have capsized the boat and we’d all have been drowned or smashed by his flukes.”
The old whaleman chuckled. “Waall, I reckon we mought ha’ been,” he admitted. “But we wasn’t. ’Sides, no whaleman never thinks o’ sech things. We wuz out fer to git this here whale, and it’s git him or git stove.”
“But why didn’t you use the bomb lance?” asked Jim. “You had a good chance.”
“Look here, son,” said the old man petulantly. “I was brung up along with a reg’lar iron an’ a reg’lar lance. These here new-fangled contraptions[86] may be all right fer them as likes ’em, but give me the old fashion’ weepons every time. By gum, I want ter see whar I’m a-drivin’ o’ the lance at. ’Sides, any dumb-foozled lan’lubber could git whales by a settin’ off an’ a-shootin’ of ’em. They ain’t no sport in it.”
By now the Narwhal was within a quarter of a mile of the boat. As her yards were swung and she was hove to, the men picked up their oars and headed for the schooner. As they drew alongside, Cap’n Pem shouted up to Captain Edwards and asked if they had seen the second officer’s boat.
“No, he was towed hull down,” replied the skipper. “But we can fetch him all right. Just stick a waif in that whale, get your boat aboard and we’ll run down to him.”
One of the men scrambled on to the whale’s body, and drove a sharp pointed iron bar bearing a flag at the end into the carcass. Then, casting loose the line to the fluke chain, the crew clambered on to the schooner and hoisted the boat to its davits.
“Well, boys, how did you like it?” asked Captain Edwards as Tom and Jim reached the deck. “Had a right pretty tussle—I was watchin’ you from aloft.”
“Fine!” declared Tom. “But we were scared[87] some of the time, and oh, we had a great joke on Cap’n Pem! The cat was in the boat and she had four kittens.”
The skipper roared. “Well, that must have broken the spell!” he exclaimed. “What did Pem say?”
“Same thing,” replied Jim, “but he added that if it hadn’t been for the cat we wouldn’t have had so much trouble.”
“Waall, I bet ye that’s so!” burst out the old whaleman. “An’ there’ll be other bad luck a-comin’ from the dumb critter.”
“B’ the powers!” exclaimed Mike who stood near. “’Tis a ol’ fool yez be. Shure, didn’t yez know a cat bein’ afther havin’ kits aboorrd a ship do be the foinest luck in the world? B’gorra ’tis four av thim yez is afther sayin’? Thin ’tis four whales yez should be afther gettin’.”
Instantly, as usual, the two one-legged old sailors began to argue, and the boys and the captain turned away to let them have it out. Presently, from the masthead, came a shout that the missing boat was sighted. Soon it was visible from the deck. But the boys, even with their glasses, could not distinguish a whale fast to Mr. Kemp’s boat.
“I wonder if they lost it,” said Jim. “Say,[88] if they did, Cap’n Pem will swear it was the cat.”
But a moment later, Tom’s sharp eyes spied a tiny rag fluttering above the waves some distance from the second mate’s boat. “There’s the whale!” he shouted. “See, it’s got a waif on it.”
“You’re right,” agreed Jim. And then a moment later, “Gosh, Tom, is that another waif—over there to the west of the boat?”
Tom looked steadily for a moment. “Golly, it is!” he cried. “Oh, Captain Edwards, they’ve got two whales!”
“What?” cried the skipper hurrying to the boys and taking Tom’s glasses. “By the great red herring, you’re right!”
“Why in tarnation ain’t he fas’ to ’em?” cried Captain Pem, who had stopped his discussion with Mike at the boys’ announcement.
“Expect he was pullin’ for the ship and couldn’t tow ’em,” said the skipper.
A few minutes later they were within hailing distance. Then the schooner was hove to, and the boat drew alongside.
“See you had good luck, Mr. Kemp!” cried the Captain heartily. “Pem got a big bull too—put up purtiest tussle I ever seen—and that’s three bowheads in a afternoon! Guess Mike’s right about[89] those kittens, boys! Only need one more whale to make the four!”
Mr. Kemp grinned. “If you’ll jus’ run down to the east’ard a couple o’ miles, you’ll find t’other one,” he announced.
“What in thunder ye talkin’ ’bout?” cried Cap’n Pem, staring at the second mate as though he thought he had gone mad. “Ye don’t mean to stan’ there an’ say—oh, ’tain’t nat’ral!”
“True jus’ the same,” grinned Mr. Kemp. “I beat ye by two bowheads, Pem.”
“Shure, Oi knowed it,” commented Mike. “B’gorra, ’tis hopin’ the blessed cat’ll be afther havin’ o’ kittens iviry day, b’jabbers.”
Every one aboard the schooner was in high spirits over the phenomenal luck of getting four whales in one day, and as one after the other of the big carcasses were picked up and made fast by stout hemp lines, the men sang and laughed. Nate, the harpoonier, roared out the quaint song:
My father’s a hedger and ditcher,
My mother does nothing but spin,
While I hunt whales for my living,
Good Lord, how the money comes in!
And lustily all joined in the chorus, for thousands[90] of dollars had been won in the past few hours, and every member of the Narwhal’s crew would share in the prize. Even old Captain Pem grudgingly agreed that he could find no fault with the ship’s luck, and admitted the black cat’s spell must have been broken. “But don’t fergit weather’s allers ca’mest jes afore a squall,” he said as a parting shot.
Mr. Kemp’s three bowheads were soon alongside, but that taken by Cap’n Pem’s boat was several miles distant, and the schooner could make no progress with the light wind with the three huge carcasses in tow.
“Now aren’t you glad we had that motor put in?” asked Tom of Cap’n Pem, as Mike started the motor and, with the staccato reports of the exhaust echoing over the Arctic sea, the Narwhal slowly pushed through the long swells, with the dead whales like a string of deeply laden barges trailing astern.
“Waall, I reckon I got ter admit ’tis a bit handy,” replied the old whaleman. “An’ I ain’t so all-fired ol’ fashioned I can’t admit it, neither. An’ time we gits inter the ice pack, I reckon it’ll come in mighty useful, too. But jes the same I ain’t got no use fer bumb lances nor dartin’ guns, nor such new-fangled contraptions. No, siree, my father and my granther used good, hand-wrought irons, an’[91] what was good ernough fer them’s good ernough for me, by cricky.”
With the four whales alongside, cutting in and boiling began in earnest, and so anxious was the crew to get the oil and bone stowed and start after more whales, that they worked almost without cessation, cutting their periods or watches of rest to half the usual time.
“Mighty glad we took them Eskimos aboard over to Hebron,” remarked Mr. Kemp, as he paused a moment from his labors and watched the busy brown men, who had stripped to the waist and were scrambling about, jabbering incessantly, reminding the boys of a group of big monkeys. “And that ‘boy’ as you called him, Unavik, is a corker. Guess we’ll make him boss of the Eskimo bunch.”
A little later Unavik approached the two boys, grinning from ear to ear, covered with grease and soot, and gnawing at a strip of raw blubber. “H’lo!” he exclaimed. “Plenty work me tell. Suppose you no got chew t’bac?”
“No, but I’ll get you some,” said Tom, and hurrying to the cabin he returned with a plug.
The Eskimo bit a huge piece from the tobacco, tore off a mouthful of the blubber and industriously chewing both together smacked his lips.
“Gosh, but that must be some combination!” exclaimed Jim.
“I suppose it’s a regular treat to him,” said Tom. “But it makes me sick just to think of eating that oily blubber, not to mention the tobacco.”
“All right, me go work, you betcher!” ejaculated Unavik as soon as he could talk. “You good frien’. Bimeby me go ’long hunt bear ’side you feller.” Stuffing the tobacco in his grease-soaked trousers, the Eskimo hurried back to the cutting stage.
All through the night, with the Aurora flickering above the northern horizon, and with the dull orange sun just visible upon the southern rim of the sea, the men toiled on. All through the following day the dripping strips of blubber were hauled on deck, the mincing knives thudded through the greasy mass upon the horse, the try works belched thick columns of black smoke, the cooper’s hatchet rang incessantly as casks were headed up, the tackles groaned and whined as the filled barrels were lowered into the hold, great masses of the whalebone were piled on deck and carcass after carcass, having been stripped of its precious covering of blubber, was cut loose and drifted slowly away from the ship.
Screaming, screeching, and squawking, a vast flock of sea birds had gathered about, swooping fearlessly[93] among the men to tear bits of flesh and blubber from the whales. The birds rested by hundreds upon the grease-slicked water, sweeping back and forth above the decks, and hovering in clouds above the discarded, floating bodies. Never had the boys seen so many birds. They spent hours watching them as they sailed and wheeled and fought over the scraps and offal. Then at last the fourth carcass was cast adrift, the final pieces of blubber were boiled, the smoke from the try works dwindled and died out, the casks were stowed, and with over three hundred barrels of oil and more than two tons of choice bone in her hold, the schooner’s sails were hoisted. The men cleaned and swabbed the decks, and onward into the north and east the Narwhal held her course.
For two days the schooner sailed steadily on, but no whale, no tiny puff of spray, broke the even surface of the sea. On the third morning, the boys glanced ahead to see soft gray mountains looming against the sky.
“Greenland!” announced Mr. Kemp who was on watch.
“Gosh, it doesn’t seem possible,” exclaimed Tom, gazing fixedly at the distant land. “Now we really are in the Arctic. Will we have a chance to go ashore, Mr. Kemp?”
“Guess you will,” replied the second officer. “The skipper’s goin’ to get some more Eskimos yonder—puttin’ into Disko Bay. Shouldn’t wonder if he did some sealin’ or walrus huntin’ too.”
“Hurrah! won’t it be great to say we’ve really been in Greenland?” cried Jim. “Golly, I never realized there were mountains there though.”
Rapidly the land grew more distinct. The boys could see deep bays—which Captain Edwards told them were fiords—great clefts cut far into the cliffs and marvelously colored with soft purples, mauves and blue. Here and there a valley between the hills gleamed green as an emerald, while vast, glistening, white masses of ice and snow zigzagged through narrow defiles. Stretching seaward from the shores was a broad white plain that rose and fell and moved like a restless white sea.
“What is that white?” asked Tom who could not make it out.
“Shore ice, pan ice,” replied the captain. “Tide and wind sets it inshore, but it’s all pretty mushy now. Look, there’s a bit of it ahead.”
Bobbing up and down upon the waves, gleaming like silver in the sunshine, the boys saw several acres of drifting ice. As the schooner slipped by it, they exclaimed in delight at the wonderful beauty of the[95] vivid green and blue of the submerged parts of the ice.
“Why, the water’s as clear as in the West Indies!” exclaimed Jim. “And almost as blue. Say, I always thought this place was dull and gray and covered with ice and snow, and it’s as fresh and lovely as anything. Now I know why it’s called Greenland.”
“Oh, what’s that big white wall there?” cried Tom.
“It looks like a great white cliff.”
The skipper glanced shoreward. “That’s a glacier,” he replied. “River of ice, like. They’re what make icebergs.”
“How on earth can they make icebergs?” asked Jim, studying the precipitous face of the glacier.
“Water cuts under ’em and they break off, and the pieces are the bergs,” explained the captain. “That’s what we call calving.”
“Well, it’s the prettiest colored thing I’ve ever seen,” declared Jim. “It’s for all the world like a giant opal and constantly changing. Gosh, it doesn’t look like any ice I ever saw.”
The Narwhal was now sailing close to the outer edge of the pack ice and a sharp lookout was kept for seals or whales. Then, rounding a jutting cape, the boys saw a deep blue fiord with a stupendous glacier leading down a great valley to the rocky[96] beach. The mouth of the fiord was clear of ice, and so the Narwhal’s course was shifted, and she slipped into the dark shadows of the towering cliffs. The water, calm as a millpond, was deepest indigo, and upon it the rocky heights and the great glacier were reflected as in a burnished mirror. Fascinated, the boys were gazing at the beautiful picture when the lookout’s hail reached the deck. “Pod o’ seal over to wind’ard,” he shouted. “Close in shore!”
Captain Edwards sprang into the rigging, gazed in the direction indicated and leaped back to the deck. “Harps!” he announced. “We’ll have a try for ’em. Stand by to lower away the port boat. Mr. Kemp, you take charge, you’ve had more experience with them critters than any one else.”
“Can we go?” asked Tom.
“Guess you can,” responded the captain, “no danger sealin’.”
In a few moments the boat was in the water, the sealing clubs, with guns and rifles, were placed in readiness, and with a will the crew pulled toward the dark specks that marked the dozing, unsuspecting seals.
As they drew near shore, the mountains seemed to overhang the boat, and the face of the glacier loomed enormous against the background of the hills. Here[97] and there, grounded on bars or shoals, were small bergs and one enormous one, with lofty pinnacles like the many spires of a great cathedral, was floating majestically near the head of the fiord. From the cliffs, where they stood in endless rows, the auks, guillemots, puffins, and cormorants gazed down and protested in raucous cries. Presently the boys could distinguish the seals—great brownish yellow creatures with dark harp-shaped markings on their backs—a hundred or more, drawn far up on the shore among the rotting cakes of ice and sleeping soundly in the warm summer sunshine.
Silently the boat crept nearer. Without a sound, it grated against the shore. Armed with their clubs and one or two firearms, the men leaped towards the herd. Instantly the seals were awake, their heads were thrown up, their big lustrous eyes turned wonderingly. Then in terror at the onrushing horde of men, with short sharp barks and yelps of fear, they commenced scrambling towards the sea and safety. But the men, led by the Eskimos, had spread in a half circle. They were between the seals and the water. As the first panic-stricken creatures reached the shouting, yelling crew, the heavy clubs rose and fell with dull, sickening thuds. The seals dropped dying in their tracks and the others, turning,[98] strove blindly to get away from these new enemies.
“Gosh, it makes me sick!” exclaimed Tom as he saw the slaughter of the poor helpless creatures. “It’s worse than killing sea elephants. No more sealing for me!”
“Nor me either,” declared Jim, “it’s just murder. And aren’t they pretty things!”
In a few moments it was all over. The beach and ice were strewn with the dead seals—not a single one had escaped—and the men, flushed and perspiring with exertion, and shouting triumphantly, tossed aside their bludgeons and commenced stripping the hides from the dead seals.
The two boys shouldered their rifles and started along the beach towards the glacier, now and then stopping to pick up some odd shell or bright-colored pebble. Once they came to a tiny brook brawling over the stones and followed it into a little valley, rich green with grass and brilliant with scarlet poppies and bright golden yellow flowers. From almost under Tom’s feet, a ptarmigan whirred up and stopping, the boys discovered the nest filled to overflowing with the heavily spotted brown eggs. A moment later Jim had his turn as he flushed a black and white snow bunting and found its cleverly hidden nest and spotted green eggs in their bed of fur and down.[99] All about, from waving weeds stalks and jutting bowlders, buntings and longspurs, gray sparrows and dainty horned larks twittered and sang. From far up in the blue sky came a sweet rollicking song as a lark soared and bubbled over with joy. The boys, seating themselves on a ledge of rock, looked silently about, enjoying the peaceful scene and unable to believe that this warm sun, these bright flowers, these trilling birds were in far-off Greenland, a land they had always pictured as barren, desolate, and cold. Then, as they retraced their steps towards the beach, Jim jumped as a big Arctic hare leaped from its resting place and went bounding off among the rocks.
“Whew, he was a whopper!” cried Tom. “Why didn’t you shoot him, Jim? He’d have tasted fine for a change from canned meat.”
Jim laughed. “I was so startled I forgot I had a gun,” he admitted, “and say, I’m rather glad I did. Somehow I’d hate to shoot anything here, it’s so pretty and happy.”
“Well, I guess we can struggle along without stewed rabbit for a while yet,” said Tom. “It does seem kind of a shame to kill anything here.”
“The men aren’t half through yet,” announced[100] Jim as the two boys reached the beach once more. “Say, Tom, let’s walk over to the glacier.”
“All right,” agreed Tom readily, “it isn’t far and it will be fine to see it close to. Say, doesn’t the Narwhal look like a speck off there—with all these big hills round!”
“Yes,” assented Jim, “and just think of how she looked when we first saw her being towed into Fair Haven. Say, Tom, it’s almost weird, looking at her off there and with us here and thinking she’s that same old tub we saw, and that we came clear up here on her.”
“Yep, and that we’re her principal owners,” chuckled Tom.
So, talking and chatting, the two drew closer and closer to the towering face of the great glacier. Presently they stopped to admire the play of colors in the mighty mass of ice and, to get a clearer view, they clambered up the steep slope of the rocky hillside. They were standing there, gazing at the gigantic face of the glacier, when there was a splintering, awful roar, the whole end of the glacier plunged forward like a falling mountain and, as the crash of its fall echoed and reverberated from the hills, a mighty, foaming, surging wave came hissing and roaring up the beach. Never had the boys seen such[101] a huge comber. Green and irresistible, it raced straight towards them, the mighty swell raised by the plunge of the stupendous mass of ice. The boys, already startled and frightened half out of their wits by the deafening crash of the falling ice, stood breathless and wide-eyed, watching the oncoming wave that threatened to engulf them.
But they were just beyond its reach. With the upflung spray drenching them to the skin, the wave dashed itself against the rocks at their feet and then, with a sullen growl, drew back. Again and again the big waves came tearing in, but each was smaller than the preceding, and soon the beach stretched smooth and clear to the gently lapping ripples.
“Whew! it was lucky we climbed up here!” exclaimed Jim. “Say, it wouldn’t have been any fun to have been down on the beach.”
“Or alongside that glacier,” added Tom. “Jiminy, look at that berg! We are lucky! We’ve seen a glacier calving!”
“And it’s some calf!” cried Jim, as he gazed at the enormous berg which but a few moments before had been a portion of the glacier.
“And look at the Narwhal!” exclaimed Tom.
The schooner was tossing and bobbing as if beset by a tempest, the masts cutting great arcs against the[102] sky, the bow shipping green water, white froth pouring from the scuppers.
“Golly, that berg did set a sea going!” ejaculated Jim. “I’ll bet Cap’n Pem’ll swear it was all due to the cat.”
“Well, it’s no bad luck anyhow, unless—Say! Jim, how about the men? Gosh! perhaps they were drowned or smashed by the waves. Come on, let’s beat it!”


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