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and heightened the pleasant feeling of warmth and shelter which they found on going down into their massive oak cabin to sleep or eat.
During the day, these men, who were more isolated than cloistered monks, talked little to one another. They would stay hours and hours at the same post, each holding his line, their arms alone occupied in the constant work of fishing. Though only separated by two or three yards, they finished by taking no notice of one another.
The calm of the fog and its white abscurity had dulled their brains. While fishing, they would sing some old ballad, but softly, under their breath, for fear of frightening away the fish.
Their thoughts came very slowly, and there were fewer of them, seeming to expand and stretch themselves out, in order to fill up the time without leaving any gaps or intervals of blankness in the mind.
And sometimes their thoughts wandered off into incoherent and marvellous dreams, as if in sleep; and the woof of these dreams was as vague and floating as a vapor.
This foggy month of August always brought the Iceland season thus quietly and sadly to an end. Still the same vigorous physical existence went on, expanding the lungs of the sailors and hardening their muscles.
Yann had quite recovered his usual manner, and seemed to have forgotten his sorrow. Watchful and alert, prompt in action both in fishing and managing the ship, he went about his work with the easy, careless manner of one who has no troubles; and with the others he was communicative only when he chose to be, which was not often,—and always held his head high, with an air at once indifferent and commanding.
In the evening, in the warm oaken cabin, over which the china Virgin presided, when he was seated at the table with his great knife in his hand before some good hot dish, he sometimes laughed as before at the funny things the others said.
[From "Sea-Hounds," by Lewis R. FREEMAN, R. N.]
T was a little incident which occurred one night when
the Grand Fleet was returning to Base from one
of its periodical sweeps through the North Sea that set Able-seaman Melton talking of the things he had seen and felt and heard the time he was standing antisubmarine watch in the Firebrand, when her flotilla of destroyers mixed itself up with a squadron of German cruisers in the course of the "dog-fight" which concluded the battle of Jutland.
I had found him, muffled to the eyes and dancing a jangling jig on a sleet-slippery steel plate to keep warm, when I picked my precarious way along the coco-matted deck and climbed up to the after searchlight platform of the Flotilla Leader I chanced to be in at the time. A fairly decent day was turning into a dirty night, and the steadily thickening mistiness which accompanied a sodden rain in process of transformation into soft snow had reduced the visibility to a point where the Commander-in-chief deemed it safer for the Fleet to put back to open sea and take no further chances among the treacherous currents and rock islands that beset the approaches to the Northern Base.
The Flagship, which had received the order by wireless, Aashed "Destroyers prepare to take station for screening when Fleet alters to easterly course at nine o'clock," and shortly before that hour the Flotilla Leader
made the signal to execute. Almost immediately I felt the hull of the Flyer take on an accelerated throb as her speed was increased, and a moment later the wake began to boil higher as the helm was put hard-a-starboard to bring her round. We were steaming a cable's length on the starboard bow of the Olympus, the leading ship of the squadron at the time, and the carrying out of the maneuvre involved the Flyer's leading her division across the head of the battleship line and down the other side on an opposite course, so that the destroyers would be in a position to resume night-screening formation when the fleet had finished turning.
Just how the captain of the Flyer happened to cut his course so fine I never learned, but the patchiness of the drifting mist must have had a good deal to do with making him misjudge his distance. At any rate, just as we had turned through nine or ten points, I suddenly saw the ominously bulking bows of the Olympus come juggernauting out of the night, with the amorphous loom of the bridge and foretop towering monstrously above. The Flyer seemed fairly to jump out of the water at the kick her propellers gave her as the turbines responded to the bridge's call for “More steam,” and a spinning puff of smoke darkened the glow above the funnels for a moment as fresh oil was sprayed upon the fires beneath the boilers.
It was a good deal like a cat scurrying in front of a speeding motor-car, and the consequences would have been more or less similar had not one of the Olympus's swarming lookouts, peering into the darkness from his screened nest, gathered hint of the disaster that menaced in time to warn the forebridge. The great superdreadnought responded to her helm very smartly considering her tonnage, and she turned just far enough to starboard to avoid grinding us under. I could almost look up through the port hawse-pipe as the flare of her bow loomed above my head, and the man standing by the depth-charges on the all-but-grazed stern of the Flyer might well have been pardoned even if the story his mates afterwards told of his action on this occasion were true—that he had tried to fend off one of the largest battleships afloat with a boat-hook.
A silhouette against the barely perceptible glow at the back of the forebridge of a “brass-hatted" officer shaking his fist as though in the act of ramping and roaring like a true British sailor moved by righteous anger; a forty or fifty degree heel to starboard as the curling bowwave of the Olympus thwacked resoundingly along her port side, and the Flyer drove on into the sleet-shot darkness to blow off accumulated steam in rolling clouds, allow her fluttering pulse to become normal, and resume the even tenor of her way.
Melton, A. B., whistling over and over the opening bars of the chorus of "Do You Want Us to Lose the War?" started his metallically clanking jig again, but presently, like a man with something on his mind, sidled over and shoved his Balaklava-bordered face against the outside of the closely-reefed hood of my “lammy" coat, and muttered thickly something about being afraid he had got himself into trouble. When I had pulled loose a snap and improved communications by unmuffing a lee ear,
I learned that it had just occurred to the good chap that he failed to report to the bridge the battleship he had sighted “fifty yards to the port beam," and he was wondering whether there would be a "strafe" coming from the skipper about it.