I made no answer to the leather-faced sailor, but tried to keep the boat’s head before a heavier roll of the sea, and the wake as much like a straight line as possible. There was no compass in the craft, and it would take some nice guesswork to find a ship three miles away.
We went along in silence for some time, the fog seeming to fall like a pall upon the spirits of the men. The wash of the oars and the gurgle of the bow-wave were the only sounds that were audible. After half an hour of this I arose and sent a hail through the bank of mist, which I thought would reach a vessel within half a mile. There was no sound of an answer, the dank vapor appearing to deaden my hail and swallow up all noise a short distance beyond the boat. It was uncanny to feel how weak that yell appeared. I saw Jim looking at me with a strange light in his eyes as though he felt danger in the air.
After an hour more of it, the faces of the men plainly showed their anxiety. Phillippi, the Dago, was chewing the corner of his dank mustache, and his eyes wandered aft and then forward. Jenks, with his large wrinkled face gray with the vapor, sat staring ahead, straining his ears for the slightest sound that would locate the vessel. I put both hands to my mouth again, and strained away my hardest. There was no response, the sound falling flat and dull in the wall of mist. Then I knew we were in danger, and gave the order to stop rowing.
The silence around us was now oppressive. We were all waiting to hear some sound that would locate either one or the other of the vessels. The breeze carried the masses of vapor in cool spurts into our faces, and I felt sure the Pirate would soon change her bearings under its influence. We had been running away from the main heave of the sea, as I supposed, but now there appeared to be a sidelong motion running with the swell and at an angle to its general direction.
“‘Tis no manner av use tryin’ to keep along as we are, d’ye think so?” suggested Chips. “We must have passed her.”
I hailed again, and after waiting for an answer, headed the boat around in the hope that we had overreached the ship, and would come within hailing distance on our way back. The order was given to pull very easily, and listen for sounds.
“This is most disgusting,” said Miss Sackett. “I’m as hungry as a bear, and here we’ll be out for the Lord only knows how long. I think you might have seen to it that I had some breakfast.” And she looked at Mr. Bell, our third officer.
“There’s water under the stern sheets,” suggested that officer, meekly. But the young lady gave a pretty pout, and shrugged her shoulders.
In a little while we stopped again and hailed loudly. The only sound in answer was the low hiss of a sea, which had begun to make with the breeze, and which broke softly ahead.