Already the sea was smoking. The freeze-up was close at hand. With each hour the merciless winter cold increased in strength. That evening when he entered his cave he closed the entrance with snow, that it might be kept warm, but nevertheless he spent an uncomfortable night, and he was glad enough to crawl out in the morning and light his fire.
That was a cheerless day. The sun shone through a gray veil, and offered little warmth. There was no more wood to gather, and to save his little stock he ran up and down upon the rocks that he might drive away the cold with exercise.
The sun was low when he lighted his evening fire, and as he prepared his sea pigeon for supper he remembered with regret that he had but one bird remaining.
“And I’ve been hungry ever since I’ve been here,” he remarked to himself. “I’m half starved this minute.”
He was thinking a great deal now of what he should have to eat when he reached home, and planning for this and that. And, oh, for some good hot tea!
And so, thinking, and dreading to go to his cheerless cave, he sat while his fire burned low and the sun sank from sight and the long and gloomy twilight gathered.
“I’ll spare another stick or two,” he said, replenishing the fire. “I can’t go into that hole yet.”
The fire blazed up, and the twilight grew thicker, and the fire had nearly burned out again while Bobby, dreaming of home and Mrs. Abel, and wondering where Abel Zachariah and Skipper Ed and Jimmy were, fell into a doze. Then it was that something unlooked for startled him into sudden wakefulness.
THE WINTER OF FAMINE
Faintly over the waters, but quite loud enough for Bobby to hear, came a hail, and Bobby was on his feet in an instant, shouting with all the power of his lusty young lungs. Then he ran to his cave and got his gun, and fired three shots at intervals of a few seconds, and with the last shot listened tense with eagerness and excitement.
This was a signal that he and Jimmy had agreed upon. It meant, “Come! I want you,” and when at home if Jimmy wished Bobby to come over to Skipper Ed’s cabin, or Bobby wished Jimmy to come to Abel Zachariah’s cabin, it was the way they called one another. And when the signal was heard, two shots were fired in quick succession to say, “I hear, and I will come,” or two shots with an interval between, to say, “I hear you, but I can’t come.” Then it was the duty of the one who had fired the three shots in the beginning, whether or not his invitation had been accepted, to fire a single shot to say: “I hear you and understand.”
And so it was that Bobby listened eagerly. If the hail had come from the boat returning from the seal hunt, Jimmy would surely answer.
He had but a moment to wait when two quickly fired shots rang out over the water. His excitement could scarcely contain itself as he fired one answering shot. Everything was working splendidly, after all! They were getting in from the seal hunt ahead of the freeze-up, and he was to reach home none the worse for his adventure.