“Tut, Amos, you should have known me better.”
“But how came you here, captain?” asked Tomlinson. “I thought that maybe you had been taken down by the suck of the ship.”
“And so I was. It is the third ship in which I have gone down, but they have never kept me down yet. I went deeper to-night than when the Speedwell sank, but not so deep as in the Governor Winthrop. When I came up I swam to the berg, found this nook, and crawled in. Glad I was to see you, for I feared that you had foundered.”
“We put back to pick you up and we passed you in the darkness. And what should we do now?”
“Rig up that boat-sail and make quarters for the gal. Then get our supper and such rest as we can, for there is nothing to be done to-night, and there may be much in the morning.”
A DWINDLING ISLAND.
Amos Green was aroused in the morning by a hand upon his shoulder, and springing to his feet, found De Catinat standing beside him. The survivors of the crew were grouped about the upturned boat, slumbering heavily after their labours of the night. The red rim of the sun had just pushed itself above the water-line, and sky and sea were one blaze of scarlet and orange from the dazzling gold of the horizon to the lightest pink at the zenith. The first rays flashed directly into their cave, sparkling and glimmering upon the ice crystals and tingeing the whole grotto with a rich warm light. Never was a fairy’s palace more lovely than this floating refuge which Nature had provided for them.
But neither the American nor the Frenchman had time now to give a thought to the novelty and beauty of their situation. The latter’s face was grave, and his friend read danger in his eyes.
“What is it, then?”
“The berg. It is coming to pieces.”
“Tut, man, it is as solid as an island.”
“I have been watching it. You see that crack which extends backwards from the end of our grotto. Two hours ago I could scarce put my hand into it. Now I can slip through it with ease. I tell you that she is splitting across.”
Amos Green walked to the end of the funnel-shaped recess and found, as his friend had said, that a green sinuous crack extended away backwards into the iceberg, caused either by the tossing of the waves, or by the terrific impact of their vessel. He roused Captain Ephraim and pointed out the danger to him.
“Well, if she springs a leak we are gone,” said he. “She’s been thawing pretty fast as it is.”
They could see now that what had seemed in the moonlight to be smooth walls of ice were really furrowed and wrinkled like an old man’s face by the streams of melted water which were continually running down them. The whole huge mass was brittle and honeycombed and rotten. Already they could hear all round them the ominous drip, drip, and the splash and tinkle of the little rivulets as they fell into the ocean.