Three naked blacks dipped with noiseless paddles. Long-hafted, slender, bone-barbed throwing-spears lay along the gunwale of the canoe, while a quiverful of arrows hung on each man's back. The eyes of the man-hunters missed nothing. They had seen Sheldon and Joan first, but they gave no sign.
With oars apeak, and paddles down, the sheets of their sails adrift, the three boats now stilly floated, awaiting Moby Dick's reappearance. "An hour," said Ahab, standing rooted in his boat's stern; and he gazed beyond the whale's place, toward the dim blue spaces and wide wooing vacancies to leeward.
And here a great flock of geese, horrified at so unwonted an apparition as the pale green boat and the paddles in fantastic movement, were holding a hasty council of war, which we broke up before they came to a decision.
The house, like all others in these out- of-the-way parts of the country, was a large open, palm-thatched shed, having one end enclosed by means of partitions also made of palm-leaves, so as to form a private apartment. Under the shed were placed all the household utensils earthenware jars, pots, and kettles, hunting and fishing implements, paddles, bows and arrows, harpoons, and so forth.
Then night fell in the midst of a heavy silence, sometimes broken by the cries of the pelican and other night-birds, and the noise of the waves breaking upon the shore, chafing against the rocks, or the panting of some far-off steamer beating the waters of the Gulf with its noisy paddles. From eight to nine o'clock the Nautilus remained some fathoms under the water.
The splash of a canoe, dropped into the water, was exquisite torture. The dip of paddles set him well-nigh beside himself. Then, a few moments later, when the light craft slithered on the mud of the shallows, just beyond the hiding-place, he felt the psychological moment had come. Out he sprang at his victim, who was still ankle deep in the water.
If there were two of them, they would come out so far that the track of the steamer should lie between them, and then, when the steamer stopped her paddles, they would come up, one on one side and the other on the other, and the passengers would come up on board by means of a flight of steps let down from the steamer, just abaft the paddle boxes.
Do you, Martin and Robin, be prepared to get out your paddles the moment you have fired; while you, David, must reload in case the others miss." Soon after he spoke the wind failed us, and the canoe no longer stemmed the current. The greatest caution was now necessary to get up to the swans. Should we use our paddles, we should frighten them, and they might escape us.
As the two canoes approached each other for Judith and her sister had plied their paddles so as to intercept the unexpected visiter ere he reached the Ark even Deerslayer's sun-burned countenance wore a brighter aspect than common, under the pleasing tints that seemed to dance in the atmosphere. Judith fancied that delight at meeting her had some share in this unusual and agreeable expression.
She will have drifted the same way we have done, only she will have gone three times as fast, for she was a good deal higher out of water, and the paddles which I fastened on to her head-rope won't have anything like the hold on the water that our spars have.