But, if it did not increase in violence, the storm showed no signs of ceasing. The wind fairly howled around the frail boat, as if angry that it could not overwhelm it, and beat it down under the waves, which were altogether too big for the safe or comfortable riding of the Ripper.
There was nothing to do save watch the engine, keep the wheel steady, and the boat pointed head on to the waves. The three boys took turns at this, for no one would now venture back to his bunk. Mr. De Vere could do little, for his broken arm hampered him, and, in order that he might suffer no further injury, he braced himself in a corner, where he would be comparatively safe from the pitching and tossing.
“Wow! That was a bad one!” exclaimed Bob, as another heavy wave thundered on the deck, and ran hissing along the scuppers.
“I think you had better get out the life preservers,” suggested Mr. De Vere, when several more tremendous waves followed in quick succession.
“Do you think we are in danger?” asked Ned.
“No more than we were some time ago,” was the rather grave answer. “But it is best to be prepared. We seem to be running into the center of the storm, instead of away from it.”
“I’ll get the cork jackets,” volunteered Jerry, going to the lockers where the preservers were kept.
They were placed where they could be quickly put on in case the boat foundered, and then, with white, set faces the boys prepared to watch out the remainder of the night, looking to the engine occasionally, and hoping fervently that they would weather the storm.
It was not cold, for they were in the latitude close to perpetual summer, and there was no rain, only that never-ceasing wind which piled the waves up in great foam-capped masses. On and on the boat staggered, now scarcely making any progress at all, and, again, during a lull shooting through the water at great speed. Sometimes the screw would be “racing,” as the stern lifted clear of the water, and again the powerful motor would be almost at a standstill, so great was the pressure of the waves on the blades of the propeller.
“It doesn’t seem to be getting any worse,” remarked Bob after a long silence, broken only by the howl of the wind. “We haven’t been boarded by any seas lately.”
“No, I think we have gone through the most dangerous part of it,” agreed Mr. De Vere. “But we’re still far from being out of danger. There is a very heavy sea on.”
They waited and hoped. The throb of the engine became a monotonous hum and whir, and the crash of the waves like the boom of some big drum. Rob, looking through one of the cabin dead-eyes, exclaimed:
The others looked out.
“It’s getting morning,” spoke Jerry, with a sigh of relief. “The night is almost gone.”
Gradually it became lighter, the pale gray dawn stealing in through the thick bull’s-eyes, and revealing the rather pale faces of the young derelict hunters. They looked out on a heaving waste of waters, the big waves rising and falling like some gigantic piece of machinery.