I could see that Hartog was troubled by this man’s appearance, as indeed was I also. It seemed a reproach to us to have been the means of bringing a fellow-creature into such a condition. Yet we had acted as necessity demanded and in no spirit of malice or revenge. Still, the consequences which had sprung from my fight with Van Luck and his subsequent part in the mutiny were not such as we cared to contemplate. If judges could see those whom they sentence after they have endured their punishment they would pause before passing fresh sentences upon wrongdoers, however guilty.
I could see that Van Luck attributed to me all his misfortunes, for he watched me closely, but when I spoke to him he shifted his gaze uneasily, as though afraid to look me in the face. I can honestly say I felt nothing but pity for him, and I made allowance for his animosity toward me when I remembered his cruel punishment.
“Of a truth, Peter,” said Hartog to me one evening when we sat together in the cabin, “I had better have shot Van Luck than let him live to become what he is. Never again will I send a man adrift upon such a voyage, though by all the rules of the sea the mutinous dog deserved what he got for his treachery. It was not his fault that you and I were not marooned instead of him.”
I did not answer, but had I then known the malice in Van, Luck toward me, of which I shall hereafter tell, the compassion which I felt for him would have been lessened.
THE SEAWEED SEA
Of all the adventures through which we had passed, perhaps there was none so dangerous as that which now befell us. We had shaped our course to the east, on the look-out for a new group of islands, among which Hartog expected to find the Island of Gems, when, one morning, we observed the horizon to have assumed a black look as though a storm was brewing, but on nearing this phenomenon, we found it to consist of an immense growth of seaweed floating upon the ocean, and extending as far as the eye could reach.
The course we were steering would have carried us into the midst of the weed, so we hauled our wind, and coasted along it to the south, hoping either to find an opening through which we might pass, or to come to the end of the floating mass, but the farther we proceeded the thicker the weed became, while other masses now appeared to larboard, so that we feared we might be enmeshed in such a manner that we would find it impossible to extricate ourselves. I had read of a sea covered by a weed which held ships entangled as in a net, and I feared that this was the danger into which fate had now led us. Portions of the kelp detached from the main mass, which floated alongside the ship, proved it to be a growth of extraordinary strength, the weed extending twenty feet and more below the surface of the water, and being so tough that two of our men between them were unable to break a specimen we drew on board, so that if we should become entangled in the kelp, we knew that death by slow starvation, when our provisions were exhausted, would await us.