The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 43

and ordering a sailor below to
report the menacing conditions to Captain Simms.

Before that officer reached the deck Theriere had the entire crew aloft
taking in sail; but though they worked with the desperation of doomed
men they were only partially successful in their efforts.

The sky and sea had assumed a sickly yellowish color, except for the
mighty black cloud that raced toward them, low over the water. The low
moaning sound that had followed the first appearance of the storm, gave
place to a sullen roar, and then, of a sudden, the thing struck the
Halfmoon, ripping her remaining canvas from her as if it had been
wrought from tissue paper, and with the flying canvas, spars, and
cordage went the mainmast, snapping ten feet above the deck, and
crashing over the starboard bow with a noise and jar that rose above the
bellowing of the typhoon.

Fully half the crew of the Halfmoon either went down with the falling
rigging or were crushed by the crashing weight of the mast as it hurtled
against the deck. Skipper Simms rushed back and forth screaming out
curses that no one heeded, and orders that there was none to fill.

Theriere, on his own responsibility, looked to the hatches. Ward with a
handful of men armed with axes attempted to chop away the wreckage, for
the jagged butt of the fallen mast was dashing against the ship's side
with such vicious blows that it seemed but a matter of seconds ere it
would stave a hole in her.

With the utmost difficulty a sea anchor was rigged and tumbled over
the Halfmoon's pitching bow into the angry sea, that was rising to more
gigantic proportions with each succeeding minute. This frail makeshift
which at best could but keep the vessel's bow into the wind, saving her
from instant engulfment in the sea's trough, seemed to Theriere but a
sorry means of prolonging the agony of suspense preceding the inevitable
end. That nothing could save them was the second officer's firm belief,
nor was he alone in his conviction. Not only Simms and Ward, but every
experienced sailor on the ship felt that the life of the Halfmoon was
now but a matter of hours, possibly minutes, while those of lesser
experience were equally positive that each succeeding wave must mark the
termination of the lives of the vessel and her company.

The deck, washed now almost continuously by hurtling tons of storm-mad
water, as one mountainous wave followed another the length of the ship,
had become entirely impossible. With difficulty the men were attempting
to get below

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