Even Arthur Rushton was silent. His idea of a "lark" appeared entirely out of place vis-à-vis with the berg.
The Bertha was sailing with a south-east wind, but the berg appeared to be drifting towards the barque. At one time some fears were entertained that the vessel would collide with the mass, but the berg passed on with merely a cold recognition of the stranger. The mist seemed increasing, the weather colder, the sea lumpy, as the island of ice passed by in dignified silence.
A man was sent up to the "crow's-nest," a barrel which had been hoisted up to the main-topmast, to scan the horizon for seals, whalers, and any floes. The lookout was seated in the cask upon a board fixed within it, and he entered it by a trap-door (cut in the bottom of the barrel) from the rigging. When the apparatus had been tested, Arthur, of course, was anxious to ascend and see what he could.
"May we go up?" asked Reginald of the second mate.
"Aye," replied Stevens. "I'll see you safe up. Take care, youngster; the ship's rollin' a tidy bit up there!"
The lads had ascended the rigging before, and with a little assistance one managed to enter the crow's-nest. Arthur went first, as he had suggested the expedition.
"This is splendid," exclaimed the lad. "There are several bergs, and lumps of ice in the sea like little islands. What are those black things, Mr. Stevens?"
He indicated some distant objects which seemed to be floating between the barque and the ice-floe.
"Whales," replied Stevens. "Not right whales, though. Those are 'finners,' as we call them."
"Wrong whales, I suppose! Are 'finners,' then, 'sinners,' " asked Arthur in his most innocent tone.
"Not particularly, so far as I know," replied the mate,