The men often discussed among themselves the narrow, dry cave. There the animals were practically penned in. They agreed that a great killing could be made there, but the impossibility of distinguishing between the bulls and the cows deterred them. The cave was quite dark.
Immerced in our own affairs thus, the days, weeks, and months went by. Events had slipped beyond my control. I had embarked on a journalistic enterprise, and now that purpose was entirely out of my reach.
Up the valley Dr. Schermerhorn and his assistant were engaged in some experiment of whose very nature I was still ignorant. Also I was likely to remain so. The precautions taken against interference by the men were equally effective against me. As if that were not enough, any move of investigation on my part would be radically misinterpreted, and to my own danger, by the men. I might as well have been in London.
However, as to my first purpose in this adventure I had evolved another plan, and therefore was content. I made up my mind that on the voyage home, if nothing prevented, I would tell my story to Percy Darrow, and throw myself on his mercy. The results of the experiment would probably by then be ready for the public, and there was no reason, as far as I could see, why I should not get the “scoop” at first hand.
Certainly my sincerity would be without question; and I hoped that two years or more of service such as I had rendered would tickle Dr. Schermerhorn’s sense of his own importance. So adequate did this plan seem, that I gave up thought on the subject.
My whole life now lay on the shores. I was not again permitted to board the Laughing Lass. Captain Selover I saw twice at a distance. Both times he seemed to be rather uncertain. The men did not remark it. The days went by. I relapsed into that state so well known to you all, when one seems caught in the meshes of a dream existence which has had no beginning and which is destined never to have an end.
We were to hunt seals, and fish, and pry bivalves from the rocks at low tide, and build fires, and talk, and alternate between suspicion and security, between the danger of sedition and the insanity of men without defined purpose, world without end forever.
“OLD SCRUBS” COMES ASHORE
The inevitable happened. One noon Pulz looked up from his labour of pulling the whiskers from the evil-smelling masks.
“How many of these damn things we got?” he inquired.
“About three hunder’ and fifty,” Thrackles replied.
“Well, we’ve got enough for me. I’m sick of this job. It stinks.”
They looked at each other. I could see the disgust rising in their eyes, the reek of rotten blubber expanding their nostrils. With one accord they cast aside the masks.
“It ain’t such a hell of a fortune,” growled Pulz, his evil little white face thrust forward. “There’s other things worth all the seal trimmin’s of the islands.”