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 © COPYRIGHT 2013 International Education Institute, ATTN: Ken Harvey, 2027 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick WA 99336, USA


by Jack London



I SCARCELY KNOW WHERE to begin, though I sometimes facetiously place the cause of it all to Charley Furuseth's credit. He kept a summer cottage in Mill Valley, under the shadow of Mount Tamalpais, and never occupied it except when he loafed through the winter months and read Nietzsche and Schopenhauer to rest his brain. When summer came on, he elected to sweat out a hot and dusty existence in the city and to toil incessantly. Had it not been my custom to run up to see him every Saturday afternoon and to stop over till Monday morning, this particular January Monday morning would not have found me afloat on San Francisco Bay.

Not but that I was afloat in a safe craft, for the Martinez was a new ferry-steamer, making her fourth or fifth trip on the run between Sausalito and San Francisco. The danger lay in the heavy fog which blanketed the bay, and of which, as a landsman, I had little apprehension. In fact, I remember the placid exaltation with which I took up my position on the forward upper deck, directly beneath the pilot-house, and allowed the mystery of the fog to lay hold of my imagination. A fresh breeze was blowing, and for a time I was alone in the moist obscurity; yet not alone, for I was dimly conscious of the presence of the pilot, and of what I took to be the captain, in the glass house above my head.

I remember thinking how comfortable it was, this division of labor which made it unnecessary for me to study fogs, winds, tides, and navigation in order to visit my friend who lived across an arm of the sea. It was good that men should be specialists, I mused. The peculiar knowledge of the pilot and captain sufficed for many thousands of people who knew no more of the sea and navigation than I knew. On the other hand, instead of having to devote my energy to the learning of a multitude of things, I concentrated it upon a few particular things, such as, for instance, the analysis of Poe's place in American literature, an essay of mine, by the way, in the current 'Atlantic.' Coming aboard, as I passed through the cabin, I had noticed with greedy eyes a stout gentleman reading the 'Atlantic,' which was open at my very essay. And there it was again, the division of labor, the special knowledge of the pilot and captain which permitted the stout gentleman to read my special knowledge on Poe while they carried him safely from Sausalito to San Francisco.

A red-faced man, slamming the cabin door behind him and stumping out on the deck, interrupted my reflections, though I made a mental note of the topic for use in a projected essay which I had thought of calling 'The Necessity for Freedom: A Plea for the Artist.' The red-faced man shot a glance up at the pilot-house, gazed around at the fog, stumped across the deck and back (he evidently had artificial legs), and stood still by my side, legs wide apart and with an expression of keen enjoyment on his face. I was not wrong when I decided that his days had been spent on the sea.

'It's nasty weather like this here that turns heads gray before their time,' he said, with a nod toward the pilot-house.

'I had not thought there was any particular strain,' I answered. 'It seems as simple as a-b-c. They know the direction by compass, the distance, and the speed. I should not call it anything more than mathematical certainty.'

'Strain!' he snorted. 'Simple as a-b-c! Mathematical certainty!' He seemed to brace himself up and lean backward against the air as he stared at me. 'How about this here tide that's rushin' out through the Golden Gate?' he demanded, or bellowed, rather. 'How fast is she ebbin'? What's the drift, eh? Listen to that, will you! A bell-buoy, and we're atop of it! See 'em alterin' the course!'

From out of the fog came the mournful tolling of a bell, and I could see the pilot turning the wheel with great rapidity. The bell, which had seemed straight ahead, was now sounding from the side. Our own whistle was blowing hoarsely, and from time to time the sound of other whistles came to us from out of the fog.

'That's a ferryboat of some sort,' the newcomer said, indicating a whistle off to the right. 'And there! D'ye hear that? Blown by mouth. Some scow schooner, most likely. Better watch out, Mr. Schooner-man. Ah, I thought so.'

The unseen ferryboat was blowing blast after blast, and the mouth-blown horn was tooting in terror-stricken fashion.

'And now they're payin' their respects to each other and tryin' to get clear,' the red-faced man went on, as the hurried whistling ceased.

His face was shining, his eyes flashing with excitement, as he translated into articulate language the speech of the horns and sirens. 'That's a steam-siren a-goin' it over there to the left. And you hear that fellow with a frog in his throat – a steam-schooner, as near as I can judge, crawlin' in from the Heads against the tide.'

A shrill little whistle, piping as if gone mad, came from directly ahead and from very near at hand. Gongs sounded on the Martinez. Our paddlewheels stopped, their pulsing beat died away, and then they started again. The shrill little whistle, like the chirping of a cricket amid the cries of great beasts, shot through the fog from more to the side and swiftly grew faint and fainter. I looked to my companion for enlightenment.

'One of them daredevil launches,' he said. 'I almost wish we'd sunk him, the little rip! They're the cause of more trouble. And what good are they? Any jackass gets aboard one and thinks he can run it, blowin' his whistle to beat the band and tellin' the rest of the world to look out for him because he's comin' and can't look out for himself. Because he's comin'! And you've got to look out, too. Right of way! Common decency! They don't know the meanin' of it!'

I felt quite amused at his unwarranted choler, and while he stumped moodily up and down I fell to dwelling upon the romance of the fog. And romantic it certainly was – the fog, like the gray shadow of infinite mystery, brooding over the whirling speck of earth; and men, mere motes of light and sparkle, cursed with an insane relish for work, riding their steeds of wood and steel through the heart of the mystery, groping their way blindly through the unseen, and clamoring and clanging in confident speech the while their hearts are heavy with incertitude and fear.

The voice of my companion brought me back to myself with a laugh. I, too, had been groping and floundering, the while I thought I rode clear-eyed through the mystery.

'Hello! Somebody comin' our way,' he was saying. 'And d'ye hear that? He's comin' fast. Walkin' right along. Guess he don't hear us yet. Wind's in wrong direction.'

The fresh breeze was blowing right down upon us, and I could hear the whistle plainly, off to one side and a little ahead.

'Ferryboat?' I asked.

He nodded, then added: 'Or he wouldn't be keepin' up such a clip.' He gave a short chuckle. 'They're gettin' anxious up there.'

I glanced up. The captain had thrust his head and shoulders out of the pilot-house and was staring intently into the fog, as though by sheer force of will he could penetrate it. His face was anxious, as was the face of my companion, who had stumped over to the rail and was gazing with a like intentness in the direction of the invisible danger.

Then everything happened, and with inconceivable rapidity. The fog seemed to break away as though split by a wedge, and the bow of a steamboat emerged, trailing fog-wreaths on each side like seaweed on the snout of Leviathan. I could see the pilot-house and a white-bearded man leaning partly out of it, on his elbows. He was clad in a blue uniform, and I remember noting how trim and quiet he was. His quietness, under the circumstances, was terrible. He accepted Destiny, marched hand in hand with it, and coolly measured the stroke. As he leaned there, he ran a calm and speculative eye over us, as though to determine the precise point of the collision, and took no notice whatever when our pilot, white with rage, shouted, 'Now you've done it!'

'Grab hold of something and hang on!' the red-faced man said to me. All his bluster had gone, and he seemed to have caught the contagion of preternatural calm. 'And listen to the women scream,' he said grimly, almost bitterly, I thought, as though he had been through the experience before.

The vessels came together before I could follow his advice. We must have been struck squarely amidships, for I saw nothing, the strange steamboat having passed beyond my line of vision. The Martinez heeled over sharply, and there was a crashing and rending of timber. I was thrown flat on the wet deck, and before I could scramble to my feet I heard the screams of the women. This it was, I am certain, – the most indescribable of bloodcurdling sounds, – that threw me into a panic. I remembered the life-preservers stored in the cabin, but was met at the door and swept backward by a wild rush of men and women. What happened in the next few minutes I do not recollect, though I have a clear remembrance of pulling down life-preservers from the overhead racks while the red-faced man fastened them about the bodies of an hysterical group of women. This memory is as distinct and sharp as that of any picture I have seen. It is a picture, and I can see it now – the jagged edges of the hole in the side of the cabin, through which the gray fog swirled and eddied; the empty upholstered seats, littered with all the evidences of sudden flight, such as packages, hand-satchels, umbrellas, and wraps; the stout gentleman who had been reading my essay, incased in cork and canvas, the magazine still in his hand, and asking me with monotonous insistence if I thought there was any danger; the red-faced man stumping gallantly around on his artificial legs and buckling life-preservers on all comers; and, finally, the screaming bedlam of women.

This it was, the screaming of the women, that most tried my nerves. It must have tried, too, the nerves of the red-faced man, for I have another picture which will never fade from my mind. The stout gentleman is stuffing the magazine into his overcoat pocket and looking on curiously. A tangled mass of women, with drawn, white faces and open mouths, is shrieking like a chorus of lost souls; and the red-faced man, his face now purplish with wrath, and with arms extended overhead, as in the act of hurling thunderbolts, is shouting, 'Shut up! Oh, shut up!'

I remember the scene impelled me to sudden laughter, and in the next instant I realized that I was becoming hysterical myself; for these were women, of my own kind, like my mother and sisters, with the fear of death upon them and unwilling to die. And I remember that the sounds they made reminded me of the squealing of pigs under the knife of the butcher, and I was struck with horror at the vividness of the analogy. These women, capable of the most sublime emotions, of the tenderest sympathies, were open-mouthed and screaming. They wanted to live; they were helpless, like rats in a trap, and they screamed.

The horror of it drove me out on deck. I was feeling sick and squeamish, and sat down on a bench. In a hazy way I saw and heard men rushing and shouting as they strove to lower the boats. It was just as I had read descriptions of such scenes in books. The tackles jammed. Nothing worked. One boat lowered away with the plugs out, filled with women and children and then with water, and capsized. Another boat had been lowered by one end and still hung in the tackle by the other end where it had been abandoned. Nothing was to be seen of the strange steamboat which had caused the disaster, though I heard men saying that she would undoubtedly send boats to our assistance.

I descended to the lower deck. The Martinez was sinking fast, for the water was very near. Numbers of the passengers were leaping overboard. Others, in the water, were clamoring to be taken aboard again. No one heeded them. A cry arose that we were sinking. I was seized by the consequent panic, and went over the side in a surge of bodies. How I went over I do not know, though I did know, and instantly, why those in the water were so desirous of getting back on the steamer. The water was cold – so cold that it was painful. The pang, as I plunged into it, was as quick and sharp as that of fire. It bit to the marrow. It was like the grip of death. I gasped with the anguish and shock of it, filling my lungs before the life-preserver popped me to the surface. The taste of the salt was strong in my mouth, and I was strangling with the acrid stuff in my throat and lungs.

But it was the cold that was most distressing. I felt that I could survive but a few minutes. People were struggling and floundering in the water about me. I could hear them crying out to one another. And I heard, also, the sound of oars. Evidently the strange steamboat had lowered its boats. As the time went by I marveled that I was still alive. I had no sensation whatever in my lower limbs, while a chilling numbness was wrapping about my heart and creeping into it. Small waves, with spiteful foaming crests, continually broke over me and into my mouth, sending me off into more strangling paroxysms.

The noises grew indistinct, though I heard a final and despairing chorus of screams in the distance and knew that the Martinez had gone down. Later, – how much later I have no knowledge, – I came to myself with a start of fear. I was alone, I could hear no calls or cries – only the sound of the waves, made weirdly hollow and reverberant by the fog. A panic in a crowd, which partakes of a sort of community of interest, is not so terrible as a panic when one is by oneself; and such a panic I now suffered. Whither was I drifting? The red-faced man had said that the tide was ebbing through the Golden Gate. Was I, then, being carried out to sea? And the life-preserver in which I floated? was it not liable to go to pieces at any moment? I had heard of such things being made of paper and hollow rushes, which quickly became saturated and lost all buoyancy. I could not swim a stroke, and I was alone, floating, apparently, in the midst of a gray primordial vastness. I confess that a madness seized me, that I shrieked aloud as the women had shrieked, and beat the water with my numb hands.

How long this lasted I have no conception, for a blankness intervened, of which I remember no more than one remembers of troubled and painful sleep. When I aroused, it was as after centuries of time, and I saw, almost above me and emerging from the fog, the bow of a vessel and three triangular sails, each shrewdly lapping the other and filled with wind. Where the bow cut the water there was a great foaming and gurgling, and I seemed directly in its path. I tried to cry out, but was too exhausted. The bow plunged down, just missing me and sending a swash of water clear over my head. Then the long black side of the vessel began slipping past, so near that I could have touched it with my hands. I tried to reach it, in a mad resolve to claw into the wood with my nails; but my arms were heavy and lifeless. Again I strove to call out, but made no sound.

The stern of the vessel shot by, dropping, as it did so, into a hollow between the waves; and I caught a glimpse of a man standing at a wheel, and of another man who seemed to be doing little else than smoke a cigar. I saw the smoke issuing from his lips as he slowly turned his head and glanced out over the water in my direction. It was a careless, unpremeditated glance, one of those haphazard things men do when they have no immediate call to do anything in particular, but act because they are alive and must do something.

But life and death were in that glance. I could see the vessel being swallowed up in the fog; I saw the back of the man at the wheel, and the head of the other man turning, slowly turning, as his gaze struck the water and casually lifted along it toward me. His face wore an absent expression, as of deep thought, and I became afraid that if his eyes did light upon me he would nevertheless not see me. But his eyes did light upon me, and looked squarely into mine; and he did see me, for he sprang to the wheel, thrusting the other man aside, and whirled it round and round, hand over hand, at the same time shouting orders of some sort. The vessel seemed to go off at a tangent to its former course and to leap almost instantly from view into the fog.

I felt myself slipping into unconsciousness, and tried with all the power of my will to fight above the suffocating blankness and darkness that was rising around me. A little later I heard the stroke of oars, growing nearer and nearer, and the calls of a man. When he was very near I heard him crying, in vexed fashion: 'Why in – don't you sing out?'

This meant me, I thought, and then the blankness and darkness rose over me.


I SEEMED SWINGING IN A mighty rhythm through orbit vastness. Sparkling points of light spluttered and shot past me. They were stars, I knew, and flaring comets, that peopled my flight among the suns. As I reached the limit of my swing and prepared to rush back on the counter-swing, a great gong struck, and thundered and reverberated through abysmal space. For an immeasurable period, quiescent, lapped in the rippling of placid centuries, I enjoyed and pondered my tremendous flight.

But a change came over the face of the dream, for a dream I told myself it must be. My rhythm grew shorter and shorter. I was jerked from swing to counter-swing with irritating haste. I could scarcely catch my breath, so fiercely was I impelled through the heavens. The gong thundered more frequently and more furiously. I grew to await it with a nameless dread. Then it seemed as though I were being dragged over rasping sands, white and hot in the sun. This gave place to a sense of intolerable anguish. My skin was scorching in the torment of fire. The gong clanged and knelled. The sparkling points of light flashed past me in an interminable stream, as though the whole sidereal system were dropping into the void. I gasped, caught my breath painfully, and opened my eyes. Two men were kneeling beside me, working over me. My mighty rhythm was the lift and forward plunge of a ship on the sea. The terrific gong was a frying-pan, hanging on the wall, that rattled and clattered with each leap of the ship. The rasping, scorching sands were a man's hard hands chafing my naked chest. I squirmed under the pain of it and half lifted my head. My chest was raw and red, and I could see tiny blood-globules starting through the torn and inflamed cuticle.

'That'll do, Yonson,' one of the men said. 'Carn't yer see you've bloomin' well rubbed all the gent's skin off?'

The man addressed as Yonson, a man of the heavy Scandinavian type, ceased chafing me and arose awkwardly to his feet. The man who had spoken to him was clearly a Cockney, with the clean lines and weakly pretty, almost effeminate, face of the man who has absorbed the sound of Bow Bells with his mother's milk. A draggled muslin cap on his head, and a dirty gunny-sack about his slim hips, proclaimed him cook of the decidedly dirty ship's galley in which I found myself.

'An' 'ow yer feelin' now, sir?' he asked, with the subservient smirk which comes only of generations of tip-seeking ancestors.

For reply, I twisted weakly into a sitting posture, and was helped by Yonson to my feet. The rattle and bang of the frying-pan was grating horribly on my nerves. I could not collect my thoughts. Clutching the woodwork of the galley for support, – and I confess the grease with which it was scummed put my teeth on edge, – I reached across a hot cooking-range to the offending utensil, unhooked it, and wedged it securely into the coal-box.

The cook grinned at my exhibition of nerves, and thrust into my hand a steaming mug with an ''Ere, this'll do yer good.'

It was a nauseous mess, – ship's coffee, – but the heat of it was revivifying. Between gulps of the molten stuff I glanced down at my raw and bleeding chest and turned to the Scandinavian.

'Thank you, Mr. Yonson,' I said; 'but don't you think your measures were rather heroic?'

It was because he understood the reproof of my action, rather than of my words, that he held up his palm for inspection. It was remarkably calloused. I passed my hand over the horny projections, and my teeth went on edge once more from the horrible rasping sensation produced.

'My name is Johnson, not Yonson,' he said in very good, though slow, English, with no more than a shade of accent to it.

There was mild protest in his pale-blue eyes, and, withal, a timid frankness and manliness that quite won me to him.

'Thank you, Mr. Johnson,' I corrected, and reached out my hand for his.

He hesitated, awkward and bashful, shifted his weight from one leg to the other, then blunderingly gripped my hand in a hearty shake.

'Have you any dry clothes I may put on?' I asked the cook.

'Yes, sir,' he answered, with cheerful alacrity. 'I'll run down an' tyke a look over my kit, if you've no objections, sir, to wearin' my things.'

He dived out of the galley door, or glided, rather, with a swiftness and smoothness of gait that struck me as being not so much cat-like as oily. In fact, this oiliness, or greasiness, as I was later to learn, was probably the most salient expression of his personality.

'And where am I?' I asked Johnson, whom I took, and rightly, to be one of the sailors. 'What vessel is this? And where is she bound?'

'Off the Farralones, heading about sou'west,' he answered slowly and methodically, as though groping for his best English, and rigidly observing the order of my queries. 'The schooner Ghost; bound seal-hunting to Japan.'

'And who is the captain? I must see him as soon as I am dressed?'

Johnson looked puzzled and embarrassed. He hesitated while he groped in his vocabulary and framed a complete answer. 'The cap'n is Wolf Larsen, or so men call him. I never heard his other name. But you better speak soft with him. He is mad this morning. The mate-'

But he did not finish. The cook had glided in.

'Better sling yer 'ook out of 'ere, Yonson,' he said. 'The Old Man'll be wantin' yer on deck, an' this ayn't no d'y to fall foul of 'im.'

Johnson turned obediently to the door, at the same time, over the cook's shoulder, favoring me with an amazingly solemn and portentous wink, as though to emphasize his interrupted remark and the need for me to be soft-spoken with the captain.

Hanging over the cook's arm was a loose and crumpled array of evil-looking and sour-smelling garments.

'They was put aw'y wet, sir,' he vouchsafed explanation. 'But you'll 'ave to make them do while I dry yours out by the fire.'

Clinging to the woodwork, staggering with the roll of the ship, and aided by the cook, I managed to slip into a rough woolen undershirt. On the instant my flesh was creeping and crawling from the harsh contact. He noticed my involuntary twitching and grimacing, and smirked:

'I only 'ope yer don't ever 'ave to get used to such as that in this life, 'cos you've got a bloomin' soft skin, that you 'ave, more like a lydy's than any I know of. I was bloomin' well sure you was a gentleman as soon as I set eyes on yer.'

I had taken a dislike to him at the first, and as he helped to dress me this dislike increased. There was something repulsive about his touch. I shrank from his hand; my flesh revolted. And between this and the smells arising from various pots boiling and bubbling on the galley fire, I was in haste to get out into the fresh air. Further, there was the need of seeing the captain about what arrangements could be made for getting me ashore.

A cheap cotton shirt, with frayed collar and a bosom discolored with what I took to be ancient bloodstains, was put on me amidst a running and apologetic fire of comment. A pair of workman's brogans incased my feet, and for trousers I was furnished with a pair of pale-blue, washed-out overalls, one leg of which was fully ten inches shorter than the other. The abbreviated leg looked as though the devil had there clutched for the Cockney's soul and missed the shadow for the substance.

'And whom have I to thank for this kindness?' I asked, when I stood completely arrayed, a tiny boy's cap on my head, and for coat a dirty, striped cotton jacket which ended at the small of my back, and the sleeves of which reached just below my elbows.

The cook drew himself up in smugly humble fashion, a deprecating smirk on his face. Out of my experience with stewards on the Atlantic liners at the end of the voyage, I could have sworn he was waiting for his tip. From my fuller knowledge of the creature I now know that the posture was unconscious. An hereditary servility, no doubt, was responsible.

'Mugridge, sir,' he fawned, his effeminate features running into a greasy smile. 'Thomas Mugridge, sir, an' at yer service.'

'All right, Thomas,' I said. 'I shall not forget you – when my clothes are dry.'

A soft light suffused his face, and his eyes glistened, as though somewhere in the deeps of his being his ancestors had quickened and stirred with dim memories of tips received in former lives.

'Thank you, sir,' he said very gratefully and very humbly indeed.

Precisely in the way that the door slid back, he slid aside, and I stepped out on deck. I was still weak from my prolonged immersion. A puff of wind caught me, and I staggered across the moving deck to a corner of the cabin, to which I clung for support. The schooner, heeled over far out from the perpendicular, was bowing and plunging into the long Pacific roll. If she were heading southwest, as Johnson had said, the wind, then, I calculated, was blowing nearly from the south. The fog was gone, and in its place the sun sparkled crisply on the surface of the water. I turned to the east, where I knew California must lie, but could see nothing save low-lying fog-banks – the same fog, doubtless, that had brought about the disaster to the Martinez and placed me in my present situation. To the north, not far away, a group of naked rocks thrust above the sea, on one of which I could distinguish a lighthouse. In the southwest, and almost in our course, I saw the pyramidal loom of some vessel's sails.

Having completed my survey of the horizon, I turned to my more immediate surroundings. My first thought was that a man who had come through a collision and rubbed shoulders with death merited more attention than I received. Beyond a sailor at the wheel, who stared curiously across the top of the cabin, I attracted no notice whatever.

Everybody seemed interested in what was going on amidships. There, on a hatch, a large man was lying on his back. He was fully clothed, though his shirt was ripped open in front. Nothing was to be seen of his chest, however, for it was covered with a mass of black hair, in appearance like the furry coat of a dog. His face and neck were hidden beneath a black beard, intershot with gray, which would have been stiff and bushy had it not been limp and draggled and dripping with water. His eyes were closed, and he was apparently unconscious; but his mouth was wide open, his breast heaving as though from suffocation as he labored noisily for breath. A sailor, from time to time and quite methodically, as a matter of routine, dropped a canvas bucket into the ocean at the end of a rope, hauled it in hand under hand, and sluiced its contents over the prostrate man.

Pacing back and forth the length of the hatchway, and savagely chewing the end of a cigar, was the man whose casual glance had rescued me from the sea. His height was probably five feet ten inches, or ten and a half; but my first impression or feel of the man was not of this, but of his strength. And yet, while he was of massive build, with broad shoulders and deep chest, I could not characterize his strength as massive. It was what might be termed a sinewy, knotty strength, of the kind we ascribe to lean and wiry men, but which, in him, because of his heavy build, partook more of the enlarged gorilla order. Not that in appearance he seemed in the least gorilla-like. What I am striving to express is this strength itself, more as a thing apart from his physical semblance. It was a strength we are wont to associate with things primitive, with wild animals and the creatures we imagine our tree-dwelling prototypes to have been – a strength savage, ferocious, alive in itself, the essence of life in that it is the potency of motion, the elemental stuff itself out of which the many forms of life have been molded.

Such was the impression of strength I gathered from this man who paced up and down. He was firmly planted on his legs; his feet struck the deck squarely and with surety: every movement of a muscle, from the heave of the shoulders to the tightening of the lips about the cigar, was decisive and seemed to come out of a strength that was excessive and overwhelming. In fact, though this strength pervaded every action of his, it seemed but the advertisement of a greater strength that lurked within, that lay dormant and no more than stirred from time to time, but which might arouse at any moment, terrible and compelling, like the rage of a lion or the wrath of a storm.

The cook stuck his head out of the galley door and grinned encouragingly at me, at the same time jerking his thumb in the direction of the man who paced up and down by the hatchway. Thus I was given to understand that he was the captain, the 'Old Man,' in the cook's vernacular, the person whom I must interview and put to the trouble of somehow getting me ashore. I had half started forward, to get over with what I was certain would be a stormy quarter of an hour, when a more violent suffocating paroxysm seized the unfortunate person who was lying on his back. He writhed about convulsively. The chin, with the damp black beard, pointed higher in the air as the back muscles stiffened and the chest swelled in an unconscious and instinctive effort to get more air.

The captain, or Wolf Larsen, as men called him, ceased pacing, and gazed down at the dying man. So fierce had this final struggle become that the sailor paused in the act of flinging more water over him, and stared curiously, the canvas bucket partly tilted and dripping its contents to the deck. The dying man beat a tattoo on the hatch with his heels, straightened out his legs, stiffened in one great, tense effort, and rolled his head from side to side. Then the muscles relaxed, the head stopped rolling, and a sigh, as of profound relief, floated upward from his lips. The jaw dropped, the upper lip lifted, and two rows of tobacco-discolored teeth appeared. It seemed as though his features had frozen into a diabolical grin at the world he had left and outwitted.

Then a most surprising thing occurred. The captain broke loose upon the dead man like a thunderclap. Oaths rolled from his lips in a continuous stream. And they were not namby-pamby oaths, or mere expressions of indecency. Each word was a blasphemy, and there were many words. They crisped and crackled like electric sparks. I had never heard anything like it in my life, nor could I have conceived it possible. With a turn for literary expression myself, and a penchant for forcible figures and phrases, I appreciated as no other listener, I dare say, the peculiar vividness and strength and absolute blasphemy of his metaphors. The cause of it all, as near as I could make out, was that the man, who was mate, had gone on a debauch before leaving San Francisco, and then had the poor taste to die at the beginning of the voyage and leave Wolf Larsen short-handed.

It should be unnecessary to state, at least to my friends, that I was shocked. Oaths and vile language of any sort had always been unutterably repellent to me. I felt a wilting sensation, a sinking at the heart, and, I might just as well say, a giddiness. To me death had always been invested with solemnity and dignity. It had been peaceful in its occurrence, sacred in its ceremonial. But death in its more sordid and terrible aspects was a thing with which I had been unacquainted till now. As I say, while I appreciated the power of the terrific denunciation that swept out of Wolf Larsen's mouth, I was inexpressibly shocked. But the dead man continued to grin unconcernedly with a sardonic humor, a cynical mockery and defiance. He was master of the situation.


WOLF LARSEN CEASED SWEARING as suddenly as he had begun. He relighted his cigar and glanced around. His eyes chanced upon the cook.

'Well, Cooky?' he began, with a suaveness that was cold and of the temper of steel.

'Yes, sir,' the cook eagerly interpolated, with appeasing and apologetic servility.

'Don't you think you've stretched that neck of yours just about enough? It's unhealthy, you know. The mate's gone, so I can't afford to lose you, too. You must be very, very careful of your health, Cooky. Understand?'

His last word, in striking contrast with the smoothness of his previous utterance, snapped like the lash of a whip. The cook quailed under it.

'Yes, sir,' was the meek reply, as the offending head disappeared into the galley.

At this rebuke the rest of the crew became uninterested and fell to work at one task or another. A number of men, however, who were lounging about a companionway between the galley and the hatch, and who did not seem to be sailors, continued talking in low tones with one another. These, I afterward learned, were the hunters, the men who shot the seals, and a very superior breed to common sailor-folk.

'Johansen!' Wolf Larsen called out. A sailor stepped forward obediently. 'Get your palm and needle and sew the beggar up. You'll find some old canvas in the sail-locker. Make it do.'

'What'll I put on his feet, sir?' the man asked, after the customary 'Aye, aye, sir.'

'We'll see to that,' Wolf Larsen answered, and elevated his voice in a cal of 'Cooky!'

Thomas Mugridge popped out of his galley like a jack-in-the-box.

'Go below and fill a sack with coal.'

'Any of you fellows got a Bible or prayer-book?' was the captain's next demand, this time of the hunters lounging about the companionway.

They shook their heads, and some one made a jocular remark which I did not catch, but which raised a general laugh.

Wolf Larsen made the same demand of the sailors. Bibles and prayer-books seemed scarce articles, but one of the men volunteered to pursue the quest among the watch below, returning in a minute with the information that 'they ain't none.'

The captain shrugged his shoulders. 'Then we'll drop him over without any palavering, unless our clerical-looking castaway has the burial service at sea by heart.'

By this time he had swung fully around and was facing me.

'You're a preacher, aren't you?' he asked.

The hunters – there were six of them – to a man turned and regarded me. I was painfully aware of my likeness to a scarecrow. A laugh went up at my appearance – a laugh that was not lessened or softened by the dead man stretched and grinning on the deck before us; a laugh that was as rough and harsh and frank as the sea itself; that arose out of coarse feelings and blunted sensibilities, from natures that knew neither courtesy nor gentleness.

Wolf Larsen did not laugh, though his gray eyes lighted with a slight glint of amusement; and in that moment, having stepped forward quite close to him, I received my first impression of the man himself – of the man as apart from his body and from the torrent of blasphemy I had heard. The face, with large features and strong lines, of the square order, yet well filled out, was apparently massive at first sight; but again, as with the body, the massiveness seemed to vanish and a conviction to grow of a tremendous and excessive mental or spiritual strength that lay behind, sleeping, in the deeps of his being. The jaw, the chin, the brow rising to a goodly height and swelling heavily above the eyes – these, while strong in themselves, unusually strong, seemed to speak an immense vigor or virility of spirit that lay behind and beyond and out of sight. There was no sounding such a spirit, no measuring, no determining of metes and bounds, or neatly classifying in some pigeonhole with others of similar type.

The eyes – and it was my destiny to know them well – were large and handsome, wide apart, as the true artist's are wide, sheltering under a heavy brow and arched over by thick black eyebrows. The eyes themselves were of that baffling protean gray which is never twice the same; which runs through many shades and colorings like intershot silk in sunshine; which is gray, dark and light, and greenish gray, and sometimes of the clear azure of the deep sea. They were eyes that masked the soul with a thousand guises, and that sometimes opened, at rare moments, and allowed it to rush up as though it were about to fare forth nakedly into the world on some wonderful adventure – eyes that could brood with the hopeless somberness of leaden skies; that could snap and crackle points of fire like those that sparkle from a whirling sword; that could grow chill as an arctic landscape, and yet again, that could warm and soften and be all adance with love-lights, intense and masculine, luring and compelling, which at the same time fascinate and dominate women till they surrender in a gladness of joy and of relief and sacrifice.

But to return. I told him that, unhappily for the burial service, I was not a preacher, when he sharply demanded:

'What do you do for a living?'

I confess I had never had such a question asked me before, nor had I ever canvassed it. I was quite taken aback, and, before I could find myself, had sillily stammered: 'I am a gentleman.'

His lip curled in a swift sneer.

'I have worked, I do work,' I cried impetuously, as though he were my judge and I required vindication, and at the same time very much aware of my arrant idiocy in discussing the subject at all.

'For your living?'

There was something so imperative and masterful about him that I was quite beside myself – 'rattled,' as Furuseth would have termed it, like a quaking child before a stern schoolmaster.

'Who feeds you?' was his next question.

'I have an income,' I answered stoutly, and could have bitten my tongue the next instant. 'All of which, you will pardon my observing, has nothing whatsoever to do with what I wish to see you about.'

But he disregarded my protest.

'Who earned it? Eh? I thought so. Your father. You stand on dead men's legs. You've never had any of your own. You couldn't walk alone between two sunrises and hustle the meat for your belly for three meals. Let me see your hand.'

His tremendous, dormant strength must have stirred swiftly and accurately, or I must have slept a moment, for before I knew it he had stepped two paces forward, gripped my right hand in his, and held it up for inspection. I tried to withdraw it, but his fingers tightened, without visible effort, till I thought mine would be crushed. It is hard to maintain one's dignity under such circumstances. I could not squirm or struggle like a schoolboy. Nor could I attack such a creature, who had but to twist my arm to break it. Nothing remained but to stand still and accept the indignity. I had time to notice that the pockets of the dead man had been emptied on the deck and that his body and his grin had been wrapped from view in canvas, the folds of which the sailor Johansen was sewing together with coarse white twine, shoving the needle through with a leather contrivance fitted on the palm of his hand.

Wolf Larsen dropped my hand with a flirt of disdain.

'Dead men's hands have kept it soft. Good for little else than dishwashing and scullion-work.'

'I wish to be put ashore,' I said firmly, for I now had myself in control.

'I shall pay you whatever you judge your delay and trouble to be worth.'

He looked at me curiously. Mockery shone in his eyes.

'I have a counter-proposition to make, and for the good of your soul. My mate's gone, and there'll be a lot of promotion. A sailor comes aft to take mate's place, cabin-boy goes for'ard to take sailor's place, and you take the cabin-boy's place, sign the articles for the cruise, twenty dollars per month and found. Now, what do you say? And mind you, it's for your own soul's sake. It will be the making of you. You might learn in time to stand on your own legs and perhaps to toddle along a bit.'

But I took no notice. The sails of the vessel I had seen off to the southwest had grown larger and plainer. They were of the same rig as the Ghost's, though the hull itself, I could see, was smaller. She was a pretty sight, leaping and flying toward us, and evidently bound to pass at close range. The wind had been momentarily increasing, and the sun, after a few angry gleams, had disappeared. The sea had turned a dull leaden gray and grown rougher, and was now tossing foaming whitecaps to the sky. We were traveling faster and heeled farther over. Once, in a gust, the rail dipped under the sea, and the decks on that side were for the moment awash with water that made a couple of the hunters hastily lift their feet.

'That vessel will soon be passing us,' I said, after a moment's pause. 'As she is going in the opposite direction, she is very probably bound for San Francisco.'

'Very probably,' was Wolf Larsen's answer, as he turned partly away from me and cried out, 'Cooky! Oh, Cooky!'

The Cockney popped out of the galley.

'Where's that boy? Tell him I want him.'

'Yes, sir,' and Thomas Mugridge fled swiftly aft and disappeared down another companionway near the wheel. A moment later he emerged, a heavy-set young fellow of eighteen or nineteen, with a glowering, villainous countenance, trailing at his heels.

''Ere 'e, is, sir,' the cook said.

But Wolf Larsen ignored that worthy, turning at once to the cabin-boy.

'What's your name, boy?'

'George Leach, sir,' came the sullen answer, and the boy's bearing showed clearly that he divined the reason for which he had been summoned.

'Not an Irish name,' the captain snapped sharply. 'O'Toole or McCarthy would suit your mug a-sight better.

'But let that go,' he continued. 'You may have very good reasons for forgetting your name, and I'll like you none the worse for it as long as you toe the mark. Telegraph Hill, of course, is your port of entry. It sticks out all over your mug. Tough as they make them and twice as nasty. I know the kind. Well, you can make up your mind to have it taken out of you on this craft. Understand? Who shipped you, anyway?'

'McCready & Swanson.'

'Sir!' Wolf Larsen thundered.

'McCready & Swanson, sir,' the boy corrected, his eyes burning with a bitter light.

'Who got the advance money?'

'They did, sir.'

'I thought as much. And devilish glad you were to let them have it. Couldn't make yourself scarce too quick, with several gentlemen you may have heard of looking for you.'

The boy metamorphosed into a savage on the instant. His body bunched together as though for a spring, and his face became as an infuriated beast's as he snarled, 'It's a-'

'A what?' Wolf Larsen asked, a peculiar softness in his voice, as though he were overwhelmingly curious to hear the unspoken word.

The boy hesitated, then mastered his temper. 'Nothin', sir. I take it back.'

'And you have shown me I was right.' This with a gratified smile. 'How old are you?'

'Just turned sixteen, sir.'

'A lie. You'll never see eighteen again. Big for your age at that, with muscles like a horse. Pack up your kit and go for'ard into the fo'c's'le. You're a boat-puller now. You're promoted; see?'

Without waiting for the boy's acceptance, the captain turned to the sailor who had just finished the gruesome task of sewing up the body. 'Johansen, do you know anything about navigation?'

'No, sir.'

'Well, never mind; you're mate just the same. Get your traps aft into the mate's berth.'

'Aye, aye, sir,' was the cheery response, as Johansen started forward.

In the meantime the erstwhile cabin-boy had not moved.

'What are you waiting for?' Wolf Larsen demanded.

'I didn't sign for boat-puller, sir,' was the reply. 'I signed for cabin-boy. An' I don't want no boat-pullin' in mine.'

'Pack up and go for'ard.'

This time Wolf Larsen's command was thrillingly imperative. The boy glowered sullenly, but refused to move.

Then came another vague stirring of Wolf Larsen's tremendous strength. It was utterly unexpected, and it was over and done with between the ticks of two seconds. He had sprung fully six feet across the deck and driven his fist into the other's stomach. At the same moment, as though I had been struck myself, I felt a sickening shock in the pit of my stomach. I instance this to show the sensitiveness of my nervous organization at the time and how unused I was to spectacles of brutality. The cabin-boy – and he weighed one hundred and sixty-five at the very least – crumpled up. His body wrapped limply about the fist like a wet rag about a stick. He lifted into the air, described a short curve, and struck the deck on his head and shoulders, where he lay and writhed about in agony.

'Well?' Larsen asked of me. 'Have you made up your mind?'

I had glanced occasionally at the approaching schooner, and it was now almost abreast of us and not more than a couple of hundred yards away. It was a very trim and neat little craft. I could see a large black number on one of its sails, and I had seen pictures of pilot-boats.

'What vessel is that?' I asked.

'The pilot-boat Lady Mine,' Wolf Larsen answered grimly. 'Got rid of her pilots and running into San Francisco. She'll be there in five or six hours with this wind.'

'Will you please signal it, then, so that I may be put ashore?'

'Sorry, but I've lost the signal-book overboard,' he remarked, and the group of hunters grinned.

I debated a moment, looking him squarely in the eyes. I had seen the frightful treatment of the cabin-boy, and knew that I should very probably receive the same, if not worse. As I say, I debated with myself, and then I did what I consider the bravest act of my life. I ran to the side, waving my arms and shouting:

'Lady Mine, ahoy! Take me ashore! A thousand dollars if you take me ashore!'

I waited, watching two men who stood by the wheel, one of them steering. The other was lifting a megaphone to his lips. I did not turn my head, though I expected every moment a killing blow from the human brute behind me. At last, after what seemed centuries, unable longer to stand the strain, I looked around. He had not moved. He was standing in the same position, swaying easily to the roll of the ship and lighting a fresh cigar.

'What is the matter? Anything wrong?'

This was the cry from the Lady Mine.

'Yes!' I shouted at the top of my lungs. 'Life or death! One thousand dollars if you take me ashore!'

'Too much 'Frisco tanglefoot for the health of my crew!' Wolf Larsen shouted after. 'This one' – indicating me with his thumb – 'fancies sea-serpents and monkeys just now.'

The man on the Lady Mine laughed back through the megaphone. The pilot-boat plunged past.

'Give him – for me!' came a final cry, and the two men waved their arms in farewell.

I leaned despairingly over the rail, watching the trim little schooner swiftly increasing the bleak sweep of ocean between us. And she would probably be in San Francisco in five or six hours! My head seemed bursting. There was an ache in my throat as though my heart were up in it. A curling wave struck the side and splashed salt spray on my lips. The wind puffed strongly, and the Ghost heeled far over, burying her lee rail. I could hear the water rushing down upon the deck.

When I turned around, a moment later, I saw the cabin-boy staggering to his feet. His face was ghastly white, twitching with suppressed pain. He looked very sick.

'Well, Leach, are you going for'ard?' Wolf Larsen asked.

'Yes, sir,' came the answer of a spirit cowed.

'And you?' I was asked.

'I'll give you a thousand-' I began, but was interrupted.

'Stow that! Are you going to take up your duties as cabin-boy? Or do I have to take you in hand?'

What was I to do? To be brutally beaten, to be killed perhaps, would not help my case. I looked steadily into the cruel gray eyes. They might have been granite for all the light and warmth of a human soul they contained. One may see the soul stir in some men's eyes, but his were bleak and cold and gray as the sea itself.


'Yes,' I said.

'Say "Yes, sir."'

'Yes, sir,' I corrected.

'What is your name?'

'Van Weyden, sir.'

'First name?'

'Humphrey, sir – Humphrey Van Weyden.'


'Thirty-five, sir.'

'That'll do. Go to the cook and learn your duties.'

And thus it was that I passed into a state of involuntary servitude to Wolf Larsen. He was stronger than I, that was all. But it was very unreal at the time. It is no less unreal now that I look back upon it. It will always be to me as a monstrous, inconceivable thing, a horrible nightmare.

'Hold on; don't go yet.'

I stopped obediently in my walk toward the galley.

'Johansen, call all hands. Now that we've everything cleaned up, we'll have the funeral and get the decks cleared of useless lumber.'

While Johansen was summoning the watch below, a couple of sailors, under the captain's direction, laid the canvas-swathed corpse upon a hatchcover. On each side the deck, against the rail, and bottoms up, were lashed a number of small boats. Several men picked up the hatch-cover with its ghastly freight, carried it to the lee side, and rested it on the boats, the feet pointing overboard. To the feet was attached the sack of coal which the cook had fetched.

I had always conceived a burial at sea to be a very solemn and awe-inspiring event, but I was quickly disillusioned, by this burial at any rate. One of the hunters, a little dark-eyed man whom his mates called 'Smoke,' was telling stories liberally intersprinkled with oaths and obscenities; and every minute or so the group of hunters gave mouth to a laughter that sounded to me like a chorus of wolves. The sailors trooped noisily aft, some of the watch below running the sleep from their eyes, and talked in low tones together. There was an ominous and worried expression on their faces. It was evident that they did not like the outlook of a voyage under such a captain and begun so inauspiciously. From time to time they stole glances at Wolf Larsen, and I could see that they were apprehensive of the man.

He stepped up to the hatch-cover, and all caps came off. I ran my eyes over them – twenty men all told, twenty-two, including the man at the wheel and myself. I was pardonably curious in my survey, for it appeared my fate to be pent up with them on this miniature floating world for I knew not how many weeks or months. The sailors, in the main, were English and Scandinavian, and their faces seemed of the heavy, stolid order. The hunters, on the other hand, had stronger and more diversified faces, with hard lines and the marks of the free play of passions. Strange to say, and I noted it at once, Wolf Larsen's features showed no such evil stamp. There seemed nothing vicious in them. True, there were lines, but they were the lines of decision and firmness. It seemed, rather, a frank and open countenance, which frankness or openness was enhanced by the fact that he was smooth-shaven. I could hardly believe, until the next incident occurred, that it was the face of a man who could behave as he had behaved to the cabin-boy.

At this moment, as he opened his mouth to speak, puff after puff struck the schooner and pressed her side under. The wind shrieked a wild song through the rigging. Some of the hunters glanced anxiously aloft. The whole lee rail, where the dead man lay, was buried in the sea, and as the schooner lifted and righted, the water swept across the deck, wetting us above our shoe-tops. A shower of rain drove down upon us, each drop stinging like a hailstone. As it passed, Wolf Larsen began to speak, the bareheaded men swaying in unison to the heave and lunge of the deck.

'I only remember one part of the service,' he said, 'and that is, "And the body shall be cast into the sea." So cast it in.'

He ceased speaking. The men holding the hatch-cover seemed perplexed, puzzled no doubt by the briefness of the ceremony. He burst upon them in a fury.

'Lift up that end there! What the  – 's the matter with you?'

They elevated the end of the hatch-cover with pitiful haste, and, like a dog flung overside, the dead man slid feet first into the sea. The coal at his feet dragged him down. He was gone.

'Johansen,' Wolf Larsen said briskly to the new mate, 'keep all hands on deck now they're here. Get in the topsails and outer jibs. We're in for a sou'easter. Reef the jib and the mainsail, too, while you're about it.'

In a moment the decks were in commotion, Johansen bellowing orders and the men pulling or letting go ropes of various sorts – all naturally confusing to a landsman such as myself. But it was the heartlessness of it that especially struck me. The dead man was an episode that was past, an incident that was dropped, in a canvas covering with a sack of coal, while the ship sped along and her work went on. Nobody had been affected. The hunters were laughing at a fresh story of Smoke's; the men pulling and hauling, and two of them climbing aloft; Wolf Larsen was studying the clouding sky to windward; and the dead man, buried sordidly, and sinking down, down-

Then it was that the cruelty of the sea, its relentlessness and awfulness, rushed upon me. Life had become cheap and tawdry, a beastly and inarticulate thing, a soulless stirring of the ooze and slime. I held onto the weather rail, close by the shrouds, and gazed out across the desolate foaming waves to the low-lying fog-banks that hid San Francisco and the California coast. Rain-squalls were driving in between, and I could scarcely see the fog. And this strange vessel, with its terrible men, pressed under by wind and sea and ever leaping up and out, as for very life, was heading away into the southwest, into the great and lonely Pacific expanse.


WHAT HAPPENED TO ME NEXT on the sealing-schooner Ghost, as I strove to fit into my new environment, are matters of humiliation and pain. The cook, who was called 'the doctor' by the crew, 'Tommy' by the hunters, and 'Cooky' by Wolf Larsen, was a changed personage. The difference worked in my status brought about a corresponding difference in treatment from him. Servile and fawning as he had been before, he was now as domineering and bellicose.

He absurdly insisted upon my addressing him as Mr. Mugridge, and his behavior and carriage were insufferable as he showed me my duties. Besides my work in the cabin, with its four small staterooms, I was supposed to be his assistant in the galley, and my colossal ignorance concerning such things as peeling potatoes or washing greasy pots was a source of unending and sarcastic wonder to him. This was part of the attitude he chose to adopt toward me; and I confess, before the day was done, that I hated him with more lively feelings than I had ever hated any one in my life before.

This first day was made more difficult for me from the fact that the Ghost, under close reefs (terms such as these I did not learn till later), was plunging through what Mr. Mugridge called an ''owlin' sou'easter.' At half-past five, under his directions, I set the table in the cabin, with rough-weather trays in place, and then carried the tea and cooked food down from the galley.

'Look sharp or you'll get doused,' was Mr. Mugridge's parting injunction as I left the galley with a big teapot in one hand and in the hollow of the other arm several loaves of fresh-baked bread. One of the hunters, a tall, loose-jointed chap named Henderson, was going aft at the time from the steerage (the name the hunters facetiously gave their amidships sleeping-quarters) to the cabin. Wolf Larsen was on the poop, smoking his everlasting cigar.

''Ere she comes! Sling yer 'ook!' the cook cried.

I stopped, for I did not know what was coming, and saw the galley door slide shut with a bang. Then I saw Henderson leaping like a madman for the main rigging, up which he shot, on the inside, till he was many feet higher than my head. Also, I saw a great wave, curling and foaming, poised far above the rail. I was directly under it. My mind did not work quickly, everything was so new and strange. I grasped that I was in danger, but that was all. I stood still, in trepidation. Then Wolf Larsen shouted from the poop:

'Grab hold something, you – you Hump!'

But it was too late. I sprang toward the rigging, to which I might have clung, and was met by the descending wall of water. What happened after that was very confusing. I was beneath the water, suffocating and drowning. My feet were out from under me, and I was turning over and over and being swept along I knew not where. Several times I collided against hard objects, once striking my right knee a terrible blow. Then the flood seemed suddenly to subside, and I was breathing the good air again. I had been swept against the galley and around the steerage companionway from the weather side into the lee scuppers. The pain from my hurt knee was agonizing. I could not put my weight on it, or at least I thought I could not put my weight on it; and I felt sure the leg was broken. But the cook was after me, shouting through the lee galley door:

''Ere, you! Don't tyke all night about it! Where's the pot? Lost overboard? Serve you bloody well right if yer neck was broke!'

I managed to struggle to my feet. The great teapot was still in my hand. I limped to the galley and handed it to him. But he was consuming with indignation, real or feigned.

'Gawd blime me if you ayn't a slob. Wot're you good for, anyw'y, I'd like to know. Eh? Wot're you good for, anyw'y? Cawn't even carry a bit of tea aft without losin' it. Now I'll 'ave to boil some more.

'An' wot're you snifflin' about?' he burst out at me with renewed rage. ''Cos you've 'urt yer pore little leg, pore little mama's darlin'!'

I was not sniffling, though my face might well have been drawn and twitching from the pain. But I called up all my resolution, set my teeth, and hobbled back and forth from galley to cabin, and cabin to galley, without further mishap. Two things I had acquired by my accident: an injured kneecap that went undressed and from which I suffered for weary months, and the name of 'Hump,' which Wolf Larsen had called me from the poop. Thereafter, fore and aft, I was known by no other name, until the term became a part of my thought processes and I identified it with myself, thought of myself as Hump, as though Hump were I and had always been I.

It was no easy task waiting on the cabin table, where sat Wolf Larsen, Johansen, and the six hunters. The cabin was small, to begin with, and to move around, as I was compelled to, was not made easier by the schooner's violent pitching and wallowing. But what struck me most forcibly was the total lack of sympathy on the part of the men whom I served. I could feel my knee through my clothes swelling up to the size of an apple, and I was sick and faint from the pain of it. I could catch glimpses of my face, white and ghastly, distorted with pain, in the cabin mirror. All the men must have seen my condition, but not one spoke or took notice of me, till I was almost grateful to Wolf Larsen later on (I was washing the dishes) when he said:

'Don't let a little thing like that bother you. You'll get used to such things in time. It may cripple you some, but, all the same, you'll be learning to walk. That's what you call a paradox, isn't it?' he added.

He seemed pleased when I nodded my head with the customary 'Yes, sir.'

'I suppose you know a bit about literary things? Eh? Good. I'll have some talks with you sometime.'

And then, taking no further account of me, he turned his back and went up on deck.

That night, when I had finished an endless amount of work, I was sent to sleep in the steerage, where I made up a spare bunk. I was glad to get out of the detestable presence of the cook and to be off my feet. To my surprise, my clothes had dried on me, and there seemed no indications of catching cold either from the last soaking or from the prolonged soaking after the foundering of the Martinez. Under ordinary circumstances, after all that I had undergone I should have been a fit subject for a funeral.

But my knee was bothering me terribly. As well as I could make out, the kneecap seemed turned up on edge in the midst of the swelling. As I sat in my bunk examining it (the six hunters were all in the steerage, smoking, and talking in loud voices), Henderson took a passing glance at it.

'Looks nasty,' he commented. 'Tie a rag around it, and it'll be all right.'

That was all. And on the land I should have been lying on the broad of my back, with a surgeon attending me, and with strict injunctions to do nothing but rest. But I must do these men justice. Callous as they were to my suffering, they were equally callous to their own when anything befell them. And this was due, I believe, first to habit and second to the fact that they were less sensitively organized. I really believe that a finely organized, high-strung man would suffer twice or thrice as much as they from a like injury.

Tired as I was, exhausted in fact, I was prevented from sleeping by the pain in my knee. It was all I could do to keep from groaning aloud. At home I should undoubtedly have given vent to my anguish, but this new and elemental environment seemed to call for a savage repression. Like the savage, the attitude of these men was stoical in great things, childish in little things. I remember, later in the voyage, seeing Kerfoot, another of the hunters, lose a finger by having it smashed to a jelly; and he did not even murmur or change the expression on his face. Yet I have seen the same man, time and again, fly into the most outrageous passion over a trifle.

He was doing it now, vociferating, bellowing, waving his arms, and cursing like a fiend, and all because of a disagreement with another hunter as to whether a seal-pup knew instinctively how to swim. He held that it did; that it could swim the moment it was born. The other hunter, Latimer, a lean Yankee-looking fellow, with shrewd, narrow-slitted eyes, held otherwise; held that the seal-pup was born on the land for no other reason than that it could not swim; that its mother was compelled to teach it to swim, as birds were compelled to teach their nestlings how to fly.

For the most part, the remaining four hunters leaned on the table or lay in their bunks and left the discussion to the two antagonists. But they were supremely interested, for every little while they ardently took sides, and sometimes all were talking at once, till their voices surged back and forth in waves of sound like mimic thunder-rolls in the confined space. Childish and immaterial as the topic was, the quality of their reasoning was still more childish and immaterial. In truth, there was very little reasoning or none at all. Their method was one of assertion, assumption, and denunciation. They proved that a seal-pup could swim or not swim at birth by stating the proposition very bellicosely and then following it up with an attack on the opposing man's judgment, common sense, nationality, or past history. Rebuttal was similar in all respects. I have related this in order to show the mental caliber of the men with whom I was thrown in contact. Intellectually they were children, inhabiting the physical bodies of men.

And they smoked, incessantly smoked, using a coarse, cheap, and offensive-smelling tobacco. The air was thick and murky with the smoke of it; and this, combined with the violent movement of the ship as she struggled through the storm, would surely have made me seasick had I been a victim to that malady. As it was, it made me quite squeamish, though this nausea might have been due to the pain of my leg and my exhaustion.

As I lay there thinking, I naturally dwelt upon myself and my situation. It was unparalleled, undreamed-of, that I, Humphrey Van Weyden, a scholar and a dilettante, if you please, in things artistic and literary, should be lying here on a Bering Sea seal-hunting schooner. Cabin-boy! I had never done any hard manual labor, or scullion labor, in my life. I had lived a placid, uneventful sedentary existence all my days – the life of a scholar and a recluse on an assured and comfortable income. Violent life and athletic sports had never appealed to me. I had always been a bookworm; so my sisters and father had called me during my childhood. I had gone camping but once in my life, and then I left the party almost at its start and returned to the comforts and conveniences of a roof. And here I was, with dreary and endless vistas before me of table-setting, potato-peeling, and dishwashing. And I was not strong. The doctors had always said that I had a remarkable constitution, but I had never developed it or my body through exercise. My muscles were small and soft, like a woman's, or so the doctors had said time and again in the course of their attempts to persuade me to go in for physical-culture fads. But I had preferred to use my head rather than my body; and here I was, in no fit condition for the rough life in prospect.

These are merely a few of the things that went through my mind, and are related for the sake of vindicating in advance the weak and helpless role I was destined to play. But I thought also of my mother and sisters, and pictured their grief. I was among the missing dead of the Martinez disaster, an unrecovered body. I could see the headlines in the papers, the fellows at the University Club and the Bibelot shaking their heads and saying, 'Poor Chap!' And I could see Charley Furuseth, as I had said good-by to him that morning, lounging in a dressing-gown on the be-pillowed window-couch and delivering himself of oracular and pessimistic epigrams.

And all the while, rolling, plunging, climbing the moving mountains and falling and wallowing in the foaming valleys, the schooner Ghost was fighting her way farther and farther into the heart of the Pacific – and I was on her. I could hear the wind above. It came to my ears as a muffled roar. Now and again feet stamped overhead. An endless creaking was going on all about me, the woodwork and the fittings groaning and squeaking and complaining in a thousand keys. The hunters were still arguing and roaring like some semi-human, amphibious breed. The air was filled with oaths and indecent expressions. I could see their faces, flushed and angry, the brutality distorted and emphasized by the sickly yellow of the sea-lamps, which rocked back and forth with the ship. Through the dim smoke-haze the bunks looked like the sleeping-dens of animals in a menagerie. Oilskins and sea-boots were hanging from the walls, and here and there rifles and shotguns rested securely in the racks. It was a sea-fitting for the buccaneers and pirates of bygone years. My imagination ran riot, and still I could not sleep. And it was a long, long night, weary and dreary and long.


BUT MY FIRST NIGHT IN the hunters' steerage was also my last. Next day Johansen, the new mate, was routed from the cabin by Wolf Larsen and sent into the steerage to sleep thereafter, while I took possession of the tiny cabin state-room, which, on the first day of the voyage, had already had two occupants. The reason for this change was quickly learned by the hunters and became the cause of a deal of grumbling on their part. It seemed that Johansen, in his sleep, lived over each night the events of the day. His incessant talking and shouting and bellowing of orders had been too much for Wolf Larsen, who accordingly foisted the nuisance upon his hunters.

After a sleepless night, I arose, weak and in agony, to hobble through my second day on the Ghost. Thomas Mugridge routed me out at half-past five, much in the fashion that Bill Sykes must have routed out his dog. But Mr. Mugridge's brutality to me was paid back in kind and with interest. The unnecessary noise he made (I had lain wide-eyed the whole night) must have awakened one of the hunters; for a heavy shoe whizzed through the semidarkness, and Mr. Mugridge, with a sharp howl of pain, humbly begged everybody's pardon. Later on, in the galley, I noticed that his ear was bruised and swollen. It never went entirely back to its normal shape, and was called a 'cauliflower ear' by the sailors.

The day was filled with miserable variety. I had taken my dried clothes down from the galley the night before, and the first thing I did was to exchange the cook's garments for them. I looked for my purse. In addition to some small change (and I have a good memory for such things), it had contained one hundred and eighty-five dollars in gold and paper. The purse I found, but its contents, with the exception of the small silver, had been abstracted. I spoke to the cook about it, when I went on deck to take up my duties in the galley; and though I had looked forward to a surly answer, I had not expected the belligerent harangue that I received.

'Look 'ere, 'Ump', he began, a malicious light in his eyes and a snarl in his throat, 'd' ye want yer nose punched? If yer think I'm a thief, just keep it to yerself, or you'll find 'ow bloody well mistyken you are. Strike me blind if this ayn't gratitude for yer! 'Ere yer come, a pore mis'rable specimen of 'uman scum, an' I tykes yer into my galley an' treats yer 'andsome, an' this is wot I get for it. Nex' time yer can go to 'ell, say I, an' I've a good mind to give yer what-for, anyw'y.'

So saying, he put up his fists and started for me. To my eternal shame be it, I cowered away from the blow and ran out the galley door. What else was I to do? Force, nothing but force, obtained on this brute-ship. Moral suasion was a thing unknown. Picture it to yourself: a man of ordinary stature, slender of build and with weak, undeveloped muscles, who has lived a peaceful, placid life, and is unused to violence of any sort – what could such a man possibly do? There was no more reason that I should stand and face these human beasts than that I should stand and face an infuriated bull.

So I thought it out at the time, feeling the need for vindication, and desiring to be at peace with my conscience. But this vindication did not satisfy. Nor to this day can I permit my manhood to look back upon those events and feel entirely exonerated. The situation was something that really exceeded rational formulas for conduct, and demanded more than the cold conclusions of reason. When viewed in the light of formal logic, there is not one thing of which to be ashamed, but, nevertheless, a shame rises within me at the recollection, and in the pride of my manhood I feel that my manhood has in unaccountable ways been smirched and sullied.

All of which is neither here nor there. The speed with which I ran from the galley caused excruciating pain in my knee, and I sank down helplessly at the break of the poop. But the Cockney had not pursued me.

'Look at 'im run! Look at 'im run!' I could hear him crying. 'An' with a gyme leg at that! Come on back, you pore little mama's darlin'! I won't 'it her; no, I won't.'

I came back and went on with my work, and here the episode ended for the time, though further developments were yet to take place. I set the breakfast table in the cabin, and at seven o'clock waited on the hunters and officers. The storm had evidently broken during the night, though a huge sea was still running and a stiff wind blowing. Sail had been made in the early watches, so that the Ghost was racing along under everything except the two topsails and the flying jib. These three sails, I gathered from the conversation, were to be set immediately after breakfast. I learned, also, that Wolf Larsen was anxious to make the most of the storm, which was driving him to the southwest, into that portion of the sea where he expected to pick up with the northeast trades. It was before this steady wind that he hoped to make the major portion of the run to Japan, curving south into the tropics and north again as he approached the coast of Asia.

After breakfast I had another unenviable experience. When I had finished washing the dishes, I cleaned the cabin stove and carried the ashes up on deck to empty them. Wolf Larsen and Henderson were standing near the wheel, deep in conversation. The sailor Johnson was steering. As I started toward the weather side, I saw him make a sudden motion with his head, which I mistook for a token of recognition and good morning. In reality he was attempting to warn me to throw my ashes over the lee side. Unconscious of my blunder, I passed by Wolf Larsen and the hunter, and flung the ashes over the side to windward. The wind drove them back, and not only over me, but over Henderson and Wolf Larsen. The next instant the latter kicked me violently, as a cur is kicked. I had not realized there could be so much pain in a kick. I reeled away from him and leaned against the cabin in a half-fainting condition. Everything was swimming before my eyes, and I turned sick. The nausea overpowered me, and I managed to crawl to the side in time to save the deck. But Wolf Larsen did not follow me up. Brushing the ashes from his clothes, he had resumed his conversation with Henderson. Johansen, who had seen the affair from the break of the poop, sent a couple of sailors aft to clean up the mess.

Later in the morning I received a surprise of a totally different sort. Following the cook's instructions, I had gone into Wolf Larsen's state-room to put it to rights and make the bed. Against the wall, near the head of the bunk, was a rack filled with books. I glanced over them, noting with astonishment such names as Shakespeare, Tennyson, Poe, and De Quincey. There were scientific works, too, among which were represented men such as Tyndall, Proctor, Darwin, and I remarked Bulfinch's 'Age of Fable,' Shaw's 'History of English and American Literature,' and Johnson's 'Natural History' in two large volumes. Then there were a number of grammars, such as Metcalf and Reed & Kellogg; and I smiled as I saw a copy of 'The Dean's English.'

I could not reconcile these books with the man from what I had seen of him, and I wondered if he could possibly read them. But when I came to make the bed, I found, between the blankets, dropped apparently as he had sunk off to sleep, a complete Browning. It was open at 'In a Balcony,' and I noticed here and there passages underlined in pencil. Further, letting drop the volume during a lurch of the ship, a sheet of paper fell out. It was scrawled over with geometrical diagrams and calculations of some sort.

It was patent that this terrible man was no ignorant clod, such as one would inevitably suppose him to be from his exhibitions of brutality. At once he became an enigma. One side or the other of his nature was perfectly comprehensible, but both sides together were bewildering. I had already remarked that his language was excellent, marred with an occasional slight inaccuracy. Of course, in common speech with the sailors and hunters, it sometimes fairly bristled with errors, which was due to the vernacular itself; but in the few words he had held with me it had been clear and correct.

This glimpse I had caught of his other side must have emboldened me, for I resolved to speak to him about the money I had lost.

'I have been robbed,' I said to him a little later, when I found him pacing up and down the poop alone.

'Sir,' he corrected, not harshly, but sternly.

'I have been robbed, sir,' I amended.

'How did it happen?' he asked.

Then I told him the whole circumstance: how my clothes had been left to dry in the galley, and how, later, I was nearly beaten by the cook when I mentioned the matter.

He smiled at my recital.

'Pickings,' he concluded; 'Cooky's pickings. And don't you think your miserable life worth the price? Besides, consider it a lesson. You'll learn in time how to take care of your money for yourself. I suppose, up to now, your lawyer has done it for you, or your business agent.'

I could feel the quiet sneer through his words, but demanded, 'How can I get it back again?'

'That's your lookout. You haven't any lawyer or business agent now, so you'll have to depend on yourself. When you get a dollar, hang on to it. A man who leaves his money lying around the way you did deserves to lose it. Besides, you have sinned. You have no right to put temptation in the way of your fellow-creatures. You tempted Cooky, and he fell. You have placed his immortal soul in jeopardy. By the way, do you believe in the immortal soul?'

His lids lifted lazily as he asked the question, and it seemed that the deeps were opening to me and that I was gazing into his soul. But it was an illusion. Far as it might have seemed, no man has ever seen very far into Wolf Larsen's soul, or seen it at all; of this I am convinced. It was a very lonely soul, I was to learn, that never unmasked, though at rare moments it played at doing so.

'I read immortality in your eyes,' I answered, dropping the 'sir' – an experiment, for I thought the intimacy of the conversation warranted it.

He took no notice. 'By that, I take it, you see something that is alive, but that necessarily does not have to live forever.'

'I read more than that,' I continued boldly.

'Then you read consciousness. You read the consciousness of life that it is alive; but still, no further away, no endlessness of life.'

How clearly he thought, and how well he expressed what he thought! From regarding me curiously, he turned his head and glanced out over the leaden sea to windward. A bleakness came into his eyes, and the lines of his mouth grew severe and harsh. He was evidently in a pessimistic mood.

'Then, to what end?' he demanded abruptly, turning back to me. 'If I am immortal, why?'

I halted. How could I explain my idealism to this man? How could I put into speech a something felt, a something like the strains of music heard in sleep, a something that convinced, yet transcended utterance?

'What do you believe, then?' I countered.

'I believe that life is a mess,' he answered promptly. 'It is like yeast, a ferment, a thing that moves, and may move for a minute, an hour, a year, or a hundred years, but that in the end will cease to move. The big eat the little that they may continue to move; the strong eat the weak that they may retain their strength. The lucky eat the most and move the longest, that is all. What do you make of those things?'

He swept his arm in an impatient gesture toward a number of the sailors who were working on some kind of rope-stuff amidships.

'They move. So does the jellyfish move. They move in order to eat in order that they may keep moving. There you have it. They live for their belly's sake, and the belly is for their sake. It's a circle; you get nowhere. Neither do they. In the end they come to a standstill. They move no more. They are dead.'

'They have dreams,' I interrupted; 'radiant, flashing dreams – '

'Of grub,' he concluded sententiously.

'And of more – '

'Grub. Of a larger appetite and more luck in satisfying it.' His voice sounded harsh. There was no levity in it. 'For, look you, they dream of making lucky voyages which will bring them more money, of becoming the masters of ships, of finding fortunes – in short, of being in a better position for preying on their fellows, of having all night in, good grub, and somebody else to do the dirty work. You and I are just like them. There is no difference, except that we have eaten more and better. I am eating them now, and you, too. But in the past you have eaten more than I have. You have slept in soft beds, and worn fine clothes, and eaten good meals. Who made those beds, and those clothes, and those meals? Not you. You never made anything in your own sweat. You live on an income which your father earned. You are like a frigate-bird swooping down upon the boobies and robbing them of the fish they have caught. You are one with a crowd of men who have made what they call a government, who are masters of all the other men, and who eat the food the other men get and would like to eat themselves. You wear the warm clothes. They made the clothes, but they shiver in rags and ask you, or the lawyer or business agent who handles your money, for a job.'

'But that is beside the matter,' I cried.

'Not at all.' He was speaking rapidly now, and his eyes were flashing. 'It is piggishness, and it is life. Of what use or sense is an immortality of piggishness? What is the end? What is it all about? You have made no food, yet the food you have eaten or wasted might have saved the lives of a score of wretches who made the food, but did not eat it. What immortal end did you serve? Or did they? Consider yourself and me. What does your boasted immortality amount to when your life runs foul of mine? You would like to go back to the land, which is a favorable place for your kind of piggishness. It is a whim of mine to keep you aboard this ship, where my piggishness flourishes. And keep you I will. I may make or break you. You may die today, this week, or next month. I could kill you now, with a blow of my fist, for you are a miserable weakling. But if we are immortal, what is the reason for this? To be piggish as you and I have been all our lives does not seem to be just the thing for immortals to be doing. Again, what's it all about? Why have I kept you here?'

'Because you are stronger,' I managed to blurt out.

'But why stronger?' he went on at once with his perpetual queries. 'Because I am a bigger bit of the ferment than you. Don't you see? Don't you see?'

'But the hopelessness of it,' I protested.

'I agree with you,' he answered. 'Then why move at all, since moving is living? Without moving and being part of the yeast there would be no hopelessness. But – and there it is – we want to live and move, though we have no reason to, because it happens that it is the nature of life to live and move, to want to live and move. If it were not for this, life would be dead. It is because of this life that is in you that you dream of your immortality. The life that is in you is alive and wants to go on being alive forever. Bah! An eternity of piggishness!'

He abruptly turned on his heel and started forward. He stopped at the break of the poop and called me to him.

'By the way, how much was it that Cooky got away with?' he asked.

'One hundred and eighty-five dollars, sir,' I answered.

He nodded his head. A moment later, as I started down the companion-stairs to lay the table for dinner, I heard him loudly cursing some man amidships.


BY THE FOLLOWING MORNING the storm had blown itself quite out, and the Ghost was rolling slightly on a calm sea without a breath of wind. Occasional light airs were felt, however, and Wolf Larsen patrolled the poop constantly, his eyes ever searching the sea to the northeast, from which direction the great trade-wind must blow.

The men are all on deck and busy preparing their various boats for the season's hunting. There are seven boats aboard, the captain's dinghy and the six which the hunters will use. Three, a hunter, a boat-puller, and a boat-steerer, compose a boat's crew. On board the schooner the boat-pullers and steerers are the crew. The hunters, too, are supposed to be in command of the watches, subject always to the orders of Wolf Larsen.

All this, and more, I have learned. The Ghost is considered the fastest schooner in both the San Francisco and Victoria fleets. In fact, she was once a private yacht, and was built for speed. Her lines and fittings, though I know nothing about such things, speak for themselves. Johnson was telling me about her in a short chat I had with him during yesterday's second dog-watch. He spoke most enthusiastically, with the love for a fine craft such as some men feel for horses. He is greatly disgusted with the outlook, and I am given to understand that Wolf Larsen bears a very unsavory reputation among the sealing-captains. It was the Ghost herself that lured Johnson into signing for the voyage, but he is already beginning to repent.

As he told me, the Ghost is an eighty-ton schooner of a remarkably fine model. Her beam, or width, is twenty-three feet, and her length a little over ninety feet. A lead keel of fabulous but unknown weight makes her very stable, while she carries an immense spread of canvas. From the deck to the truck of the maintopmast is something over a hundred feet, while the foremast with its topmast is eight or ten feet shorter. I am giving these details so that the size of this little floating world which holds twenty-two men may be appreciated. It is a very little world, a mote, a speck, and I marvel that men should dare to venture the sea on a contrivance so small and fragile.

Wolf Larsen has also a reputation for reckless carrying on of sail. I overheard Henderson and another of the hunters, Standish, a Californian, talking about it. Two years ago he dismasted the Ghost in a gale in Bering Sea, whereupon the present masts were put in, which are stronger and heavier in every way. He is said to have remarked, when he put them in, that he preferred turning her over to losing the sticks.

Every man aboard, with the exception of Johansen, who is rather overcome by his promotion, seems to have an excuse for having sailed on the Ghost. Half the men forward are deep-water sailors, and their excuse is that they did not know anything about her or her captain. And those who do know whisper that the hunters, while excellent shots, were so notorious for their quarrelsome and rascally proclivities that they could not sign on any decent schooner.

I have made the acquaintance of another one of the crew. Louis he is called, a rotund and jovial-faced Nova Scotia Irishman, and a very sociable fellow, prone to talk as long as he can find a listener. In the afternoon, while the cook was below asleep and I was peeling the everlasting potatoes, Louis dropped into the galley for a 'yarn.' His excuse for being aboard was that he was drunk when he signed. He assured me again and again that it was the last thing in the world he would dream of doing in a sober moment. It seems that he has been seal-hunting regularly each season for a dozen years, and is accounted one of the two or three very best boat-steerers in both fleets.

'Ah, my boy,' – he shook his head ominously at me, – ''t is the worst schooner ye could iv selected; nor were ye drunk at the time, as was I. 'T is sealin' is the sailor's paradise – on other ships than this. The mate was the first, but, mark me words, there'll be more dead men before the trip is done with. Hist, now, between you an' meself an' the stanchion there, this Wolf Larsen is a regular devil, an' the Ghost'll be a hell-ship like she's always be'n since he had hold iv her. Don't I know? Don't I know? Don't I remember him in Hakodate two years gone, when he had a row an' shot four iv his men? Wasn't I a-layin' on the Emma L., not three hundred yards away? An' there was a man the same year he killed with a blow iv his fist. Yes, sir, killed 'im dead – oh. His head must iv smashed like an egg-shell. 'T is the beast he is, this Wolf Larsen – the great big beast mentioned iv in Revelations; an' no good end will he ever come to. But I've said nothin' to ye, mind ye; I've whispered never a word; for old fat Louis'll live the voyage out, if the last mother's son of yez go to the fishes.

'Wolf Larsen!' he snorted a moment later. 'Listen to the word, will ye! Wolf – 't is what he is. He's not black-hearted, like some men. 'T is no heart he has at all. Wolf, just wolf, 't is what he is. D'ye wonder he's well named?'

'But if he is so well known for what he is,' I queried, 'how is it that he can get men to ship with him?'

'An' how is it ye can get men to do anything on God's earth an' sea?' Louis demanded with Celtic fire. 'How d' ye find me aboard if 't wasn't that I was drunk as a pig when I put me name down? There's them that can't sail with better men, like the hunters, an' them that don't know, like the poor devils of wind-jammers for'ard there. But they'll come to it, they'll come to it, an' be sorry the day they was born. I could weep for the poor creatures, did I but forget poor old fat Louis and the troubles before him. But 't is not a whisper I've dropped; mind ye, not a whisper.

'Them hunters is the wicked boys,' he broke forth again, for he suffered from a constitutional plethora of speech. 'But wait till they get to cuttin' up iv jinks an' rowin' round. He's the boy'll fix 'em. 'T is him that'll put the fear of God in their rotten black hearts. Look at that hunter iv mine, Horner. "Jock" Horner they call him, so quiet-like an' easy-goin'; soft-spoken as a girl, till ye'd think butter wouldn't melt in the mouth iv him. Didn't he kill his boat-steerer last year? 'T was called a sad accident, but I met the boat-puller in Yokohama, an' the straight iv it was given me. An' there's Smoke, the black little devil – didn't the Roosians have him for three years in the salt-mines of Siberia for poachin' on Copper Island, which is a Roosian preserve? Shackled he was, hand an' foot, with his mate. An' didn't they have words or a ruction of some kind? For 't was the other fellow Smoke sent up in the buckets to the top of the mine; an' a piece at a time he went up, a leg today, an' tomorrow an arm, the next day the head, an' so on.'

'But you can't mean it!' I cried out, overcome with the horror of it.

'Mean what?' he demanded, quick as a flash. ''T is nothin' I've said. Deef I am, an' dumb, as ye should be for the sake iv your mother; an' never once have I opened me lips but to say fine things iv them an' him, God curse his soul! an' may he rot in purgatory ten thousand years, an' then go down to the last an' deepest hell iv all!'

Johnson, the man who had chafed me raw when I first came aboard, seemed the least equivocal of the men for'ard or aft. In fact, there was nothing equivocal about him. One was struck at once by his straightforwardness and manliness, which, in turn, were tempered by a modesty which might be mistaken for timidity. But timid he was not. He seemed rather to have the courage of his convictions, the certitude of his manhood. It was this that made him protest, at the beginning of our acquaintance, against being called Yonson. And upon this and him Louis passed judgment and prophecy.

''T is a fine chap, that squarehead Johnson we've for'ard with us,' he said. 'The best sailorman in the fo'c's'le. He's my boat-puller. But it's to trouble he'll come with Wolf Larsen, as the sparks fly upward. It's meself that knows. I can see it brewin' an' comin' up like a storm in the sky. I've talked to him like a brother, but it's little he sees in takin' in his lights or flyin' false signals. He grumbles out when things don't go to suit him, an' there'll be always some telltale carryin' word iv it aft to the Wolf. The Wolf is strong, an' it's the way of a wolf to hate strength, an' strength is is he'll see in Johnson – no knucklin' under, an' a "Yes, sir; thank ye kindly, sir," for a curse or a blow. Oh, she's a-comin'! She's a-comin'! An' God knows where I'll get another boat-puller. What does the fool up an' say, when the Old Man calls him Yonson, but "Me name is Johnson, sir," and' then spells it out, letter for letter. Ye should iv seen the Old Man's face! I thought he'd let drive at him on the spot. He didn't, but he will, an' he'll break that squarehead's heart, or it's little I know iv the ways iv men on the ships iv the sea.'

Thomas Mugridge is becoming unendurable. I am compelled to mister him and to sir him with every speech. One reason for this is that Wolf Larsen seems to have taken a fancy to him. It is an unprecedented thing, I take it, for a captain to be chummy with the cook, but this is certainly what Wolf Larsen is doing. Two or three times he put his head into the galley and chaffed Mugridge good-naturedly, and once, this afternoon, he stood by the break of the poop and chatted with him for fully fifteen minutes. When it was over, and Mugridge was back in the galley, he became greasily radiant and went about his work humming Coster songs in a nerve-racking and discordant falsetto.

'I always get along with the officers,' he remarked to me in a confidential tone. 'I know the w'y, I do, to myke myself uppreci-yted. There was my last skipper – w'y, I thought nothin' of droppin' down in the cabin for a little chat an' a friendly glass. "Mugridge," says 'e to me, "Mugridge," says 'e, "you've missed yer vocytion." "an' ow's that?" says I. "Yer should' a' been born a gentleman, an' never 'ad to work for yer livin'." God strike me dead, 'Ump, if that ayn't wot 'e says, an' me a-sittin' there in 'is own cabin, jolly – like an' comfortable, a-smokin' 'is cigars an' drinkin' 'is rum.'

This chitter-chatter drove me to distraction. I never heard a voice I hated so. His oily, insinuating tones, his greasy smile, and his monstrous self-conceit grated on my nerves till sometimes I was all in a tremble. Positively he was the most disgusting and loathsome person I have ever met. The filth of his cooking was indescribable; and as he cooked everything that was eaten aboard, I was compelled to select with great circumspection what I ate, choosing from the least dirty of his concoctions.

My hands bothered me a great deal, unused as they were to work. The nails were discolored and black, while the skin was already grained with dirt which even a scrubbing-brush could not remove. Then blisters came, in a painful and never-ending procession, and I had a great burn on my forearm, acquired by losing my balance in a roll of the ship and pitching against the galley stove. Nor was my knee any better. The swelling had not gone down, and the cap was still up on edge. Hobbling about on it from morning to night was not helping it any. What I needed was rest, if it were ever to get well.

Rest! I never before knew the meaning of the word. I had been resting all my life and did not know it. But now could I sit still for one half-hour and do nothing, not even think, it would be the most pleasurable thing in the world. But it is a revelation, on the other hand. I shall be able to appreciate the lives of the working-people hereafter. I did not dream that work was so terrible a thing. From half-past five in the morning till ten o'clock at night I am everybody's slave, with not one moment to myself except such as I can steal near the end of the second dog-watch. Let me pause for a minute to look out over the sea sparkling in the sun, or to gaze at a sailor going aloft to the gaff topsails or running out the bowsprit, and I am sure to hear the hateful voice, ''Ere, you, 'Ump! No sodgerin'! I've got my peepers on yer.'

There are signs of rampant bad temper in the steerage, and the gossip is going around that Smoke and Henderson have had a fight. Henderson seems the best of the hunters, a slow-going fellow and hard to rouse; but roused he must have been for Smoke had a bruised and discolored eye and looked particularly vicious when he came into the cabin for supper.

A cruel thing happened just before supper, indicative of the callousness and brutishness of these men. There is one green hand in the crew, Harrison by name, a clumsy-looking country boy, mastered, I imagine, by the spirit of adventure, and making his first voyage. In the light, baffling airs, the schooner has been tacking about a great deal, at which times the sails pass from one side to the other, and a man is sent aloft to shift over the fore-gaff topsail.

In some way, when Harrison was aloft, the sheet jammed in the block through which it runs at the end of the gaff. As I understood it, there were two ways of getting it cleared – first, by lowering the foresail, which was comparatively easy and without danger; and, second, by climbing out on the peak-halyards to the end of the gaff itself, a very hazardous performance.

Johansen called out to Harrison to go out on the halyards. It was patent to everybody that the boy was afraid. And well he might be, eighty feet above the deck, to trust himself on those thin and jerking ropes. Had there been a steady breeze it would not have been so bad, but the Ghost was rolling emptily in a long sea, and with each roll the canvas flapped and boomed and the halyards slacked and jerked taut. They were capable of snapping a man off like a fly from a whiplash.

Harrison heard the order and understood what was demanded of him, but hesitated. It was probably the first time in his life he had been aloft. Johansen, who had caught the contagion of Wolf Larsen's masterfulness, burst out with a volley of abuse and curses.

'That'll do, Johansen!' Wolf Larsen said brusquely. 'I'll have you know that I do the swearing on this ship. If I need your assistance, I'll call you in.'

'Yes, sir,' the mate acknowledged submissively.

In the meantime Harrison had started out on the halyards. I was looking up from the galley door, and I could see him trembling in every limb as with ague. He proceeded very slowly and cautiously, an inch at a time. Outlined against the clear blue of the sky, he had the appearance of an enormous spider crawling along the tracery of its web.

It was a slightly uphill climb, for the foresail peaked high; and the halyards, running through various blocks on the gaff and mast, gave him separate holds for hands and feet. But the trouble lay in that the wind was not strong enough or steady enough to keep the sail full. When he was halfway out, the Ghost took a long roll to windward and back again into the hollow between two seas. Harrison ceased his progress and held on tightly. Eighty feet beneath I could see the agonized strain of his muscles as he gripped for very life.

The sail emptied and the gaff swung amidships. The halyards slackened, and, though it all happened very quickly, I could see them sag beneath the weight of his body. Then the gaff swung to the side with an abrupt swiftness, the great sail boomed like a cannon, and the three rows of reef-points slatted against the canvas like a volley of rifles. Harrison, clinging on, made the giddy rush through the air. This rush ceased abruptly. The halyards became instantly taut. It was the snap of the whip. His clutch was broken. One hand was torn loose from its hold. The other lingered desperately for a moment, and followed. His body pitched out and down, but in some way he managed to save himself with his legs. He was hanging by them, head downward. A quick effort brought his hands up to the halyards again; but he was a long time regaining his former position, where he hung, a pitiable object.

'I'll bet he has no appetite for supper,' I heard Wolf Larsen's voice, which came to me from around the corner of the galley. 'Look at his gills.'

In truth Harrison was very sick, as a person is seasick; and for a long time clung to his precarious perch without attempting to move. Johansen, however, continued violently to urge him on to the completion of his task.

'It is a shame,' I heard Johnson growling in painfully slow and correct English. He was standing by the main rigging, a few feet away from me. 'The boy is willing enough. He will learn if he has a chance. But this – ' He paused a while, for the word 'murder' was his final judgment.

'Hist, will ye!' Louis whispered to him. 'For the love iv your mother, hold your mouth!'

But Johnson, looking on, still continued his grumbling.

'Look here,' – the hunter Standish spoke to Wolf Larsen, – 'that's my boat-puller, and I don't want to lose him.'

'That's all right, Standish,' was the reply. 'He's your boat-puller when you've got him in the boat, but he's my sailor when I have him aboard, and I'll do what I well please with him.'

'But that's no reason – ' Standish began in a torrent of speech.

'That'll do; easy as she goes,' Wolf Larsen counseled back. 'I've told you what's what, and let it stop at that. The man's mine, and I'll make soup of him and eat it if I want to.'

There was an angry gleam in the hunter's eye, but he turned on his heel and entered the steerage companionway, where he remained, looking upward. All hands were on deck now, and all eyes were aloft, where a human life was at grapples with death. The callousness of these men, to whom industrial organization gave control of the lives of other men, was appalling. I, who had lived out of the whirl of the world, had never dreamed that its work was carried on in such fashion. Life had always seemed a peculiarly sacred thing; but here it counted for nothing, was a cipher in the arithmetic of commerce. I must say, however, that the sailors themselves were sympathetic, as instance the case of Johnson; but the masters (the hunters and the captain) were heartlessly indifferent. Even the protest of Standish arose out of the fact that he did not wish to lose his boat-puller. Had it been some other hunter's boat-puller, he, like them, would have been no more than amused.

But to return to Harrison. It took Johansen, insulting and reviling the poor wretch, fully ten minutes to get him started again. A little later he made the end of the gaff, where, astride the spar itself, he had a better chance for holding on. He cleared the sheet, and was free to return, slightly downhill now, along the halyards to the mast. But he had lost his nerve. Unsafe as was his present position, he was loath to forsake it for the more unsafe position on the halyards.

He looked along the airy path he must traverse, and then down to the deck. His eyes were wide and staring, and he was trembling violently. I had never seen fear so strongly stamped upon a human face. Johansen called vainly for him to come down. At any moment he was liable to be snapped off the gaff, but he was helpless with fright. Wolf Larsen, walking up and down with Smoke and in conversation, took no more notice of him, though he cried sharply, once, to the man at the wheel:

'You're off your course, my man! Be careful, unless you're looking for trouble.'

'Aye, aye, sir,' the helmsman responded, putting a couple of spokes down.

He had been guilty of running the Ghost several points off her course, in order that what little wind there was should fill the foresail and hold it steady. He had striven to help the unfortunate Harrison at the risk of incurring Wolf Larsen's anger.

The time went by, and the suspense, to me, was terrible. Thomas Mugridge, on the other hand, considered it a laughable affair, and was continually bobbing his head out of the galley door to make jocose remarks. How I hated him! And how my hatred for him grew and grew, during that fearful time, to cyclopean dimensions! For the first time in my life I experienced the desire to murder – 'saw red,' as some of our picturesque writers phrase it. Life in general might still be sacred, but life in the particular case of Thomas Mugridge had become very profane indeed. I was frightened when I became conscious that I was seeing red, and the thought flashed through my mind: Was I, too, becoming tainted by the brutality of my environment? – I, who even in the most flagrant crimes had denied the justice and righteousness of capital punishment.

Fully half an hour went by, and then I saw Johnson and Louis in some sort of altercation. It ended with Johnson flinging off Louis's detaining arm and starting forward. He crossed the deck, sprang into the fore rigging, and began to climb. But the quick eye of Wolf Larsen caught him.

'Here, you, what are you up to?' he cried.

Johnson's ascent was arrested. He looked his captain in the eyes and replied slowly:

'I am going to get that boy down.'

'You'll get down out of that rigging, and – lively about it! D'ye hear! Get down!'

Johnson hesitated, but the long years of obedience to the masters of ships overpowered him, and he dropped sullenly to the deck and went on forward.

At half after five I went below to set the cabin table; but I hardly knew what I did, for my eyes and brain were filled with the vision of a man, white-faced and trembling, comically, like a bug, clinging to the thrashing gaff. At six o'clock, when I served supper, going on deck to get the food from the galley, I saw Harrison, still in the same position. The conversation at the table was of other things. Nobody seemed interested in the wantonly imperiled life. But, making an extra trip to the galley a little later, I was gladdened by the sight of Harrison staggering weakly from the rigging to the forecastle scuttle. He had finally summoned the courage to descend.

Before closing this incident, I must give a scrap of conversation I had with Wolf Larsen in the cabin, while I was washing the dishes.

'You were looking squeamish this afternoon,' he began. 'What was the matter?'

I could see that he knew what had made me possibly as sick as Harrison, that he was trying to draw me, and I answered: 'It was because of the brutal treatment of that boy.'

He gave a short laugh. 'Like seasickness, I suppose. Some men are subject to it, and others are not.'

'Not so,' I objected.

'Just so,' he went on. 'The earth is as full of brutality as the sea is full of motion. And some men are made sick by the one, and some by the other. That's the only reason.'

'But you who make a mock of human life, don't you place any value upon it whatever?' I demanded.

'Value? What value? He looked at me, and though his eyes were steady and motionless, there seemed a cynical smile in them. 'What kind of value? How do you measure it? Who values it?'

'I do,' I made answer.

'Then what is it worth to you? Another man's life, I mean. Come, now, what is it worth?'

The value of life? How could I put a tangible value upon it? Somehow I, who have always had expression, lacked expression when with Wolf Larsen. I have since determined that a part of it was due to the man's personality, but that the greater part was due to his totally different outlook. Unlike other materialists I had met, and with whom I had something in common to start on, I had nothing in common with him. Perhaps, also, it was the elemental simplicity of his mind that baffled me. He drove so directly to the core of the matter, divesting a question always of all superfluous details, and with such an air of finality, that I seemed to find myself struggling in deep water with no footing under me. Value of life? How could I answer the question on the spur of the moment? The sacredness of life I had accepted as axiomatic. That it was intrinsically valuable was a truism I had never questioned. But when he challenged the truism I was speechless.

'We were talking about this yesterday,' he said. 'I held that life was a ferment, a yeasty something which devoured life that it might live, and that living was merely successful piggishness. Why, if there is anything in supply and demand, life is the cheapest thing in the world. There is only so much water, so much earth, so much air; but the life that is demanding to be born is limitless. Nature is a spendthrift. Look at the fish and their millions of eggs. For that matter, look at you and me. In our loins are the possibilities of millions of lives. Could we but find time and opportunity and utilize the last bit and every bit of the unborn life that is in us, we could become the fathers of nations and populate continents. Life? Bah! It has no value. Of cheap things it is the cheapest. Everywhere it goes begging. Nature spills it out with a lavish hand. Where there is room for one life, she sows a thousand lives, and it's life eat life till the strongest and most piggish life is left.'

'You have read Darwin,' I said. 'But you read him misunderstandingly when you conclude that the struggle for existence sanctions your wanton destruction of life.'

He shrugged his shoulders. 'You know you only mean that in relation to human life, for of the flesh and the fowl and the fish you destroy as much as I or any other man. And human life is in no wise different, though you feel it is and think that you reason why it is. Why should I be parsimonious with this life which is cheap and without value? There are more sailors than there are ships on the sea for them, more workers than there are factories or machines for them. Why, you who live on the land know that you house your poor people in the slums of cities and loose famine and pestilence upon them, and that there still remain more poor people, dying for want of a crust of bread and a bit of meat (which is life destroyed), than you know what to do with. Have you ever seen the London dockers fighting like wild beasts for a chance to work?'

He started for the companion-stairs, but turned his head for a final word. 'Do you know, the only value life has is what life puts upon itself; and it is of course overestimated, since it is of necessity prejudiced in its own favor. Take that man I had aloft. He held on as if he were a precious thing, a treasure beyond diamonds or rubies. To you? No. To me? Not at all. To himself, yes. But I do not accept his estimate. He sadly overrates himself. There is plenty more life demanding to be born. Had he fallen and dripped his brains upon the deck like honey from the comb, there would have been no loss to the world. He was worth nothing to the world. The supply is too large. To himself only was he of value, and to show how fictitious even this value was, being dead, he is unconscious that he has lost himself. He alone rated himself beyond diamonds and rubies. Diamonds and rubies are gone, spread out on the deck to be washed away by a bucket of sea-water, and he does not even know that the diamonds and rubies are gone. He does not lose anything, for with the loss of himself he loses the knowledge of loss. Don't you see? And what have you to say?'

'That you are at least consistent,' was all I could say, and I went on washing the dishes.


AT LAST, AFTER THREE DAYS of variable winds, we caught the northeast trades. I came on deck, after a good night's rest in spite of my poor knee, to find the Ghost foaming along, wing-and-wing and with every sail drawing except the jibs, with a fresh breeze astern. Oh, the wonder of the great trade-wind! All day we sailed, and all night, and the next day, and the next, day after day, the wind always astern and blowing steadily and strong. The schooner sailed herself. There was no pulling and hauling on sheets and tackles, no shifting of topsails, no work at all for the sailors to do except to steer. At night, when the sun went down, the sheets were slackened; in the morning, when they yielded up the damp of the dew and relaxed, they were pulled tight again – and that was all.

Ten knots, twelve knots, eleven knots, varying from time to time, was the speed we were making; and ever out of the northeast the brave wind blew, driving us on our course two hundred and fifty miles between the dawns. It saddened me and gladdened me, the gait with which we were leaving San Francisco behind and with which we were foaming down upon the tropics. Each day grew perceptibly warmer. In the second dog-watch the sailors came on deck, stripped, and threw buckets of water upon one another from overside. Flying-fish were beginning to be seen, and during the night the watch above scrambled over the deck in pursuit of those that fell aboard. In the morning, Thomas Mugridge being duly bribed, the galley was pleasantly areek with the odor of their frying, while dolphin meat was served fore and aft on such occasions as Johnson caught the blazing beauties from the bowsprit end.

Johnson seemed to spend all his spare time there, or aloft at the cross-trees, watching the Ghost cleaving the water under her press of sail. There was passion, adoration, in his eyes, and he went about in a sort of trance, gazing in ecstasy at the swelling sails, the foaming wake, and the heave and the run of her over the liquid mountains that were moving with us in stately procession.

The days and nights were all 'a wonder and a wild delight,' and though I had little time from my dreary work, I stole odd moments to gaze and gaze at the unending glory of what I never dreamed the world possessed. Above, the sky was stainless blue – blue as the sea itself, which, under the forefoot, was of the color and sheen of azure satin. All around the horizon were pale, fleecy clouds, never changing, never moving, like a silver setting for the flawless turquoise sky.

I do not forget one night, when I should have been asleep, of lying on the forecastle-head and gazing down at the spectral ripple of foam thrust aside by the Ghost's forefoot. It sounded like the gurgling of a brook over mossy stones in some quiet dell, and the crooning song of it lured me away and out of myself till I was no longer Hump the cabin-boy, or Van Weyden the man who had dreamed away thirty-five years among books. But a voice behind me, the unmistakable voice of Wolf Larsen, strong with the invincible certitude of the man and mellow with appreciation of the words he was quoting, aroused me.

O the blazing tropic night, when the wake's a welt of light
That holds the hot sky tame,
And the steady forefoot snores through the planet-powdered floors
Where the scared whale flukes in flame.
Her plates are scarred by the sun, dear lass,
And her ropes are taut with the dew,
For we're booming down on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail,
We're sagging south on the Long Trail – the trail that is always  new.

'Eh, Hump? How's it strike you?' he asked, after the due pause which words and setting demanded.

I looked into his face. It was aglow with light, as the sea itself, and the eyes were flashing in the starshine.

'It strikes me as remarkable, to say the least, that you should show enthusiasm,' I answered coldly.

'Why, man, it's living; it's life!' he cried.

'Which is a cheap thing and without value.' I flung his words at him.

He laughed, and it was the first time I had heard honest mirth in his voice.

'Ah, I cannot get you to understand, cannot drive it into your head, what a thing this life is. Of course life is valueless, except to itself. And I can tell you that my life is pretty valuable just now – to myself. It is beyond price, which you will acknowledge is a terrific overrating, but which I cannot help, for it is the life that is in me that makes the rating.'

He appeared waiting for the words with which to express the thought that was in him, and finally went on:

'Do you know, I am filled with a strange uplift; I feel as if all time were echoing through me, as though all powers were mine. I know truth, divine good from evil, right from wrong. My vision is clear and far. I could almost believe in God. But' – and his voice changed, and the light went out of his face – 'what is this condition in which I find myself – this joy of living, this exultation of life, this inspiration, I may well call it? It is what comes when there is nothing wrong with one's digestion, when his stomach is in trim, and his appetite has an edge, and all goes well. It is the bribe for living, the champagne of the blood, the effervescence of the ferment, that makes some men think holy thoughts, and other men to see God or to create him when they cannot see him. That is all – the drunkenness of life, the stirring and crawling of the yeast, the babbling of the life that is insane with consciousness that it is alive. And – bah! Tomorrow I shall pay for it as the drunkard pays, as the miser clutching for a pot of gold pays on waking to penury. And I shall know that I must die, at sea most likely; cease crawling of myself, to be all acrawl with the corruption of the sea; to be fed upon, to yield up all the strength and movement of my muscles, that they may become strength and movement in fin and scale and the guts of fishes. Bah! And bah! again. The champagne is already flat. The sparkle and bubble have gone out, and it is a tasteless drink.'

He left me as suddenly as he had come, springing to the deck with the weight and softness of a tiger. The Ghost plowed on her way. I noted that the gurgling forefoot was very like a snore, and as I listened to it the effect of Wolf Larsen's swift rush from sublime exultation to despair slowly left me. Then some deepwater sailor, from the waist of the ship, lifted a rich tenor voice in the 'Song of the Trade-wind':

Oh, I am the wind the seamen love-
I am steady, and strong, and true;
They follow my track by the clouds above,
O'er the fathomless tropic blue.


SOMETIMES I THOUGHT Wolf Larsen mad, or half mad at least, what with his strange moods and vagaries. At other times I took him for a great man, a genius who had never arrived. And, finally, I was convinced that he was the perfect type of the primitive man, born a thousand years or generations too late, and an anachronism in this culminating century of civilization. He was certainly an individualist of the most pronounced type. Not only that, but he was very lonely. There was no congeniality between him and the rest of the men aboard ship; his tremendous virility and mental strength walled him apart. They were more like children to him, even the hunters, and as children he treated them, descending perforce to their level and playing with them as a man plays with puppies. Or else he probed them with the cruel hand of a vivisectionist, groping about in their mental processes and examining their souls as though to see of what this soul-stuff was made.

I had seen him a score of times, at table, insulting this hunter or that with cool and level eyes and, withal, a certain air of interest, pondering their actions or replies or petty rages with a curiosity almost laughable to me who stood onlooker and who understood. Concerning his own rages, I was convinced that they were not real, that they were sometimes experiments, but that in the main they were the habits of a pose or attitude he had seen fit to take toward his fellowmen. I knew, with the possible exception of the incident of the dead mate, that I had not seen him really angry; nor did I wish ever to see him in a genuine rage, when all the force of him would be called into play.

While on the question of vagaries, I shall tell what befell Thomas Mugridge in the cabin, and at the same time complete an incident upon which I have already touched once or twice. The twelve o'clock dinner was over, one day, and I had just finished putting the cabin in order, when Wolf Larsen and Thomas Mugridge descended the companion-stairs. Though the cook had a cubby-hole of a state-room opening off from the cabin, in the cabin itself he had never dared to linger or to be seen, and he flitted to and fro, once or twice a day, like a timid specter.

'So you know how to play Nap,' Wolf Larsen was saying in a pleased sort of voice. 'I might have guessed an Englishman would know. I learned it myself in English ships.'

Thomas Mugridge was beside himself, a blithering imbecile, so pleased was he at chumming thus with the captain. The little airs he put on, and the painful striving to assume the easy carriage of a man born to a dignified place in life, would have been sickening had they not been ludicrous. He quite ignored my presence, though I credited him with being simply unable to see me. His pale, wishy-washy eyes were swimming like lazy summer seas, though what blissful visions they beheld were beyond my imagination.

'Get the cards, Hump,' Wolf Larsen ordered, as they took seats at the table, 'and bring out the cigars and the whiskey you'll find in my berth.'

I returned with the articles in time to hear the Cockney hinting broadly that there was a mystery about him – that he might be a gentleman's son gone wrong or something or other; also, that he was a remittance-man, and was paid to keep away from – England – 'p'yed 'an'somely, sir,' was the way he put it; 'p'yed 'an'somely to sling my 'ook an' keep slingin' it.'

I had brought the customary liquor-glasses, but Wolf Larsen frowned, shook his head, and signaled with his hands for me to bring the tumblers. These he filled two thirds full with undiluted whiskey, – 'a gentleman's drink,' quoth Thomas Mugridge, – and they clinked their glasses to the glorious game of Nap, lighted cigars, and fell to shuffling and dealing the cards.

They played for money. They increased the amounts of the bets. They drank whiskey, they drank it neat, and I fetched more. I do not know whether Wolf Larsen cheated, – a thing he was thoroughly capable of doing, – but he won steadily. The cook made repeated journeys to his bunk for money. Each time he performed the journey with greater swagger, but he never brought more than a few dollars at a time. He grew maudlin, familiar, could hardly see the cards or sit upright. As a preliminary to another journey to his bunk, he hooked Wolf Larsen's buttonhole with a greasy forefinger and vacuously proclaimed and reiterated: 'I got money. I got money, I tell yer, an' I'm a gentleman's son.'

Wolf Larsen was unaffected by the drink, yet he drank glass for glass, and, if anything, his glasses were fuller. There was no change in him. He did not appear even amused at the other's antics.

In the end, with loud protestations that he could lose like a gentleman, the cook's last money was staked on the game and lost. Whereupon he leaned his head on his hands and wept. Wolf Larsen looked curiously at him, as though about to probe and vivisect him, then changed his mind, as from the foregone conclusion that there was nothing there to probe.

'Hump,' he said to me, elaborately polite, 'kindly take Mr. Mugridge's arm and help him up on deck. He is not feeling very well. And tell Johansen to douse him with a few buckets of salt water,' he added in a lower tone, for my ear alone.

I left Mr. Mugridge on deck, in the hands of a couple of grinning sailors who had been told off for the purpose. Mr. Mugridge was sleepily spluttering that he was a gentleman's son. But as I descended the companion-stairs to clear the table I heard him shriek as the first bucket of water struck him.

Wolf Larsen was counting his winnings.

'One hundred and eighty-five dollars, even,' he said aloud. 'Just as I thought. The beggar came aboard without a cent.'

'And what you have won is mine, sir,' I said boldly.

He favored me with a quizzical smile. 'Hump, I have studied some grammar in my time, and I think your tenses are tangled. "Was mine," you should have said, not "is mine."'

'It is a question, not of grammar, but of ethics,' I answered.

It was possibly a minute before he spoke.

'D' ye know, Hump,' he said, with a slow seriousness which had in it an indefinable strain of sadness, 'that this is the first time I have heard the word "ethics" in the mouth of a man. You and I are the only men on this ship who know its meaning.'

'At one time in my life,' he continued, after another pause, 'I dreamed that I might some day talk with men who used such language, that I might lift myself out of the place in life in which I had been born, and hold conversations and mingle with men who talked about just such things as ethics. And this is the first time I have ever heard the word pronounced. Which is all by the way, for you are wrong. It is a question neither of grammar nor ethics, but of fact.'

'I understand,' I said. 'The fact is that you have the money.'

His face brightened. He seemed pleased at my perspicacity.

'But it's avoiding the real question,' I continued, 'which is one of right.'

'Ah,' he remarked, with a wry pucker of his mouth, 'I see you still believe in such things as right and wrong.'

'But don't you – at all?' I demanded.

'Not the least bit. Might is right, and that is all there is to it. Weakness is wrong. Which is a very poor way of saying that it is good for oneself to be strong, and evil for oneself to be weak, or, better yet, it is pleasurable to be strong, because of the profits; painful to be weak, because of the penalties. just now the possession of this money is a pleasurable thing. It is good for one to possess it. Being able to possess it, I wrong myself and the life that is in me if I give it to you and forego the pleasure of possessing it.'

'But you wrong me by withholding it,' I objected.

'Not at all. One man cannot wrong another man. He can only wrong himself. As I see it, I do wrong always when I consider the interests of others. Don't you see? How can two particles of the yeast wrong each other by striving to devour each other? It is their inborn heritage to strive to devour, and to strive not to be devoured. When they depart from this they sin.'

'Then you don't believe in altruism?' I asked.

He received the word as though it had a familiar ring, though he pondered it thoughtfully. 'Let me see; it means something about cooperation, doesn't it?'

Well, in a way there has come to be a sort of connection,' I answered, unsurprised by this time at such gaps in his vocabulary, which, like his knowledge, was the acquirement of a self-read, self-educated man whom no one had directed in his studies, and who had thought much and talked little or not at all. 'An altruistic act is an act performed for the welfare of others. It is unselfish, as opposed to an act performed for self, which is selfish.'

He nodded his head. 'Oh, yes, I remember it now. I ran across it in Spencer.'

'Spencer!' I cried. 'Have you read him?'

'Not very much,' was his confession. 'I understood quite a good deal of "First Principles," but his "Biology" took the wind out of my sails, and his "Psychology" left me butting around in the doldrums for many a day. I honestly could not understand what he was driving at. I put it down to mental deficiency on my part, but since then I have decided that it was for want of preparation. I had no proper basis. Only Spencer and myself know how hard I hammered. But I did get something out of his "Data of Ethics." There's where I ran across "altruism," and I remember now how it was used.'

I wondered what this man could have got from such a work. Spencer I remembered enough to know that altruism was imperative to his ideal of highest conduct. Wolf Larsen evidently had sifted the great philosopher's teachings, rejecting and selecting according to his needs and desires.

'What else did you run across?' I asked.

His brows drew in slightly with the mental effort of suitably phrasing thoughts which he had never before put into speech. I felt an elation of spirit. I was groping in his soul-stuff, as he made a practice of groping in the soul-stuff of others. I was exploring virgin territory. A strange, a terribly strange region was unrolling itself before my eyes.

'In as few words as possible,' he began, 'Spencer puts it something like this: First, a man must act for his own benefit – to do this is to be moral and good. Next, he must act for the benefit of his children. And third, he must act for the benefit of his race.'

'And the highest, finest right conduct,' I interjected, 'is that act which benefits at the same time the man, his children, and his race.'

'I wouldn't stand for that,' he replied. 'Couldn't see the necessity for it, nor the common sense. I cut out the race and the children. I would sacrifice nothing for them. It's just so much slush and sentiment, and you must see it yourself, at least for one who does not believe in eternal life. With immortality before me, altruism would be a paying business proposition. I might elevate my soul to all kinds of altitudes. But with nothing eternal before me but death, given for a brief spell this yeasty crawling and squirming which is called life, why, it would be immoral for me to perform any act that was a sacrifice. Any sacrifice that makes me lose one crawl or squirm is foolish; and not only foolish, for it is a wrong against myself, and a wicked thing. I must not lose one crawl or squirm if I am to get the most out of the ferment. Nor will the eternal movelessness that is coming to me be made easier or harder by the sacrifices or selfishnesses of the time when I was yeasty and acrawl.'

'Then you are an individualist, a materialist, and, logically, a hedonist.'

'Big words,' he smiled. 'But what is a hedonist?'

He nodded agreement when I had given the definition.

'And you are also,' I continued, 'a man one could not trust in the least thing where it was possible for a selfish interest to intervene?'

'Now you're beginning to understand,' he said, brightening.

'You are a man utterly without what the world calls morals?'

'That's it.'

'A man of whom to be always afraid-'

'That's the way to put it.'

'As one is afraid of a snake, or a tiger, or a shark?'

'Now you know me,' he said. 'And you know me as I am generally known. Other men call me "Wolf."'

'You are a sort of monster,' I added audaciously, 'a Caliban who has pondered Setebos, and who acts as you act, in idle moments, by whim and fancy.'

His brow clouded at the allusion. He did not understand, and I quickly learned that he did not know the poem.

'I'm just reading Browning,' he confessed, 'and it's pretty tough. I haven't got very far along, and as it is, I've about lost my bearings.'

Not to be tiresome, I shall say that I fetched the book from his state-room and read 'Caliban' aloud. He was delighted. It was a primitive mode of reasoning and of looking at things that he understood thoroughly. He interrupted again and again with comment and criticism. When I finished, he had me read it over a second time, and a third. We fell into discussion – philosophy, science, evolution, religion. He betrayed the inaccuracies of the self-read man, and, it must be granted, the certitude and directness of the primitive mind. The very simplicity of his reasoning was its strength, and his materialism was far more compelling than the subtly complex materialism of Charley Furuseth. Not that I, a confirmed, and, as Furuseth phrased it, a temperamental, idealist, was to be compelled; but that Wolf Larsen stormed the last strongholds of my faith with a vigor that received respect while not accorded conviction.

Time passed. Supper was at hand and the table not laid. I became restless and anxious, and when Thomas Mugridge glared down the companionway, sick and angry of countenance, I prepared to go about my duties. But Wolf Larsen cried out to him':

'Cooky, you've got to hustle tonight. I'm busy with Hump, and you'll do the best you can without him.'

And again the unprecedented was established. That night I sat at table with the captain and the hunters, while Thomas Mugridge waited on us and washed the dishes afterward – a whim, a Caliban-mood of Wolf Larsen's, and one I foresaw would bring me trouble. In the meantime we talked and talked, much to the disgust of the hunters, who could not understand a word.


THREE DAYS OF REST, THREE blessed days of rest, are what I had with Wolf Larsen, eating at the cabin table and doing nothing but discuss life, literature, and the universe, the while Thomas Mugridge fumed and raged and did my work as well as his own.

'Watch out for squalls, is all I can say to you,' was Louis's warning, given during a spare half-hour on deck while Wolf Larsen was engaged in straightening out a row among the hunters.

'Ye can't tell what'll be happenin',' Louis went on, in response to my query for more definite information. 'The man's as contrary as air-currents or water-currents. You can never guess the ways iv him. 'T is just as you're thinkin' you know him an' are makin' a favorable slant along him that he whirls around, dead ahead, an' comes howlin' down upon you an' a-rippin' all iv your fine-weather sails to rags.'

So I was not altogether surprised when the squall foretold by Louis smote me. We had been having a heated discussion, – upon life, of course, – and, grown overbold, I was passing stiff strictures upon Wolf Larsen and the life of Wolf Larsen. In fact, I was vivisecting him and turning over his soul-stuff as keenly and thoroughly as it was his custom to do it to others. It may be a weakness of mine that I have an incisive way of speech, but I threw all restraint to the winds and cut and slashed until the whole man of him was snarling. The dark sun-bronze of his face went black with wrath; his eyes became ablaze. There was no clearness or sanity in them – nothing but the terrific rage of a madman. It was the wolf in him that I saw, and a mad wolf at that.

He sprang for me with a half-roar, gripping my arm. I had steeled myself to brazen it out, though I was trembling inwardly; but the enormous strength of the man was too much for my fortitude. He had gripped me by the biceps with his single hand, and when that grip tightened I wilted and shrieked aloud. My feet went out from under me. I simply could not stand upright and endure the agony. The muscles refused their duty. The pain was too great. My biceps was being crushed to a pulp.

He seemed to recover himself, for a lurid gleam came into his eyes, and he relaxed his hold with a short laugh that was more like a growl. I fell to the floor, feeling very faint, while he sat down, lighted a cigar, and watched me as a cat watches a mouse. As I writhed about I could see in his eyes that curiosity I had so often noted, that wonder and perplexity, that questing, that everlasting query of his as to what it was all about.

I finally crawled to my feet and ascended the companion-stairs. Fair weather was over, and there was nothing left but to return to the galley. My left arm was numb, as though paralyzed, and days passed before I could use it, while weeks went by before the last stiffness and pain went out of it. And he had done nothing but put his hand upon my arm and squeeze. There had been no wrenching or jerking. He had just closed his hand with a steady pressure. What he might have done I did not fully realize till next day, when he put his head into the galley, and, as a sign of renewed friendliness, asked me how my arm was getting on.

'It might have been worse,' he smiled.

I was peeling potatoes. He picked one up from the pan. It was fair-sized, firm, and unpeeled. He closed his hand upon it, squeezed, and the potato squirted out between his fingers in mushy streams. The pulpy remnant he dropped back into the pan and turned away, and I had a sharp vision of how it might have fared with me had the monster put his strength upon me.

But the three days' rest was good, in spite of it all, for it had given my knee the very chance it needed. It felt much better, the swelling had materially decreased, and the cap seemed descending into its proper place. Also, the three days' rest brought the trouble I had foreseen. It was plainly Thomas Mugridge's intention to make me pay for those three days. He treated me vilely, cursed me continually, and heaped his own work upon me. He even ventured to raise his fist to me, but I was becoming animal-like myself, and I snarled in his face so terribly that it must have frightened him back. It is no pleasant picture I can conjure up of myself, Humphrey Van Weyden, in that noisome ship's galley, crouched in a corner over my task, my face raised to the face of the creature about to strike me, my lips lifted and snarling like a dog's, my eyes gleaming with fear and helplessness and the courage that comes of fear and helplessness. I do not like the picture. It reminds me too strongly of a rat in a trap. I do not care to think of it; but it was effective, for the threatened blow did not descend.

Thomas Mugridge backed away, glaring as hatefully and viciously as I glared. A pair of beasts is what we were, penned together and showing our teeth. He was a coward, afraid to strike me because I had not quailed sufficiently in advance; so he chose a new way to intimidate me. There was only one galley knife that as a knife amounted to anything. This, through many years of service and wear, had acquired a long, lean blade. It was unusually cruel-looking, and at first I had shuddered every time I used it. The cook borrowed a stone from Johansen and proceeded to sharpen the knife. He did it with great ostentation, glancing significantly at me the while. He whetted it up and down all day long. Every odd moment he could find he had the knife and stone out and was whetting away. The steel acquired a razor-edge. He tried it with the ball of his thumb or across the nail, he shaved hairs from the back of his hand, glanced along the edge with microscopic acuteness, and found, or feigned that he found, always, a slight inequality in its edge somewhere. Then he would put it on the stone again, and whet, whet, whet, till I could have laughed aloud, it was so very ludicrous.

It was also serious, for I learned that he was capable of using it, that under all his cowardice there was a courage of cowardice, like mine, that would impel him to do the very thing his whole nature protested against doing and was afraid of doing. 'Cooky's sharpening his knife for Hump,' was being whispered about among the sailors, and some of them twitted him about it. This he took in good part, and was really pleased, nodding his head with direful foreknowledge and mystery, until George Leach, the erstwhile cabin-boy, ventured some rough pleasantry on the subject.

Now it happened that Leach was one of the sailors told off to douse Mugridge after his game of cards with the captain. Leach had evidently done his task with a thoroughness that Mugridge had not forgiven, for words followed, and evil names involving smirched ancestries. Mugridge menaced with the knife he was sharpening for me. Leach laughed and hurled more of his Telegraph Hill billingsgate, and before either he or I knew what had happened, his right forearm had been ripped open from elbow to wrist by a quick slash of the knife. The cook backed away, a fiendish expression on his face, the knife held before him in a position of defense. But Leach took it quite calmly, though his blood was spouting upon the deck as generously as water from a fountain.

'I'm goin' to get you, Cooky,' he said, 'and I'll get you hard. And I won't be in no hurry about it. You'll be without that knife when I come for you.'

So saying, he turned and walked quietly forward. Mugridge's face was livid with fear at what he had done and at what he might expect sooner or later from the man he had stabbed. But his demeanor toward me was more ferocious than ever. In spite of his fear at the reckoning he must expect to pay for what he had done, he could see that it had been an object-lesson to me, and he became more domineering and exultant. Also, there was a lust in him, akin to madness, which had come with sight of the blood he had drawn. He was beginning to see red in whatever direction he looked. The psychology of it is sadly tangled, and yet I could read the workings of his mind as clearly as though it were a printed book.

Several days went by, the Ghost still foaming down the trades, and I could swear I saw madness growing in Thomas Mugridge's eyes. And I confess that I became afraid, very much afraid. Whet, whet, whet, it went, all day long. The look in his eyes as he felt the keen edge and glared at me was positively carnivorous. I was afraid to turn my shoulder to him, and when I left the galley I went out backward – to the amusement of the sailors and hunters, who made a point of gathering in groups to witness my exit. The strain was too great. I sometimes thought my mind would give way under it – a meet thing on this ship of madmen and brutes. Every hour, every minute, of my existence was in jeopardy. I was a human soul in distress, and yet no soul, fore or aft, betrayed sufficient sympathy to come to my aid. At times I thought of throwing myself on the mercy of Wolf Larsen; but the vision of the mocking devil in his eyes that questioned life and sneered at it would come strong upon me and compel me to refrain. At other times I seriously contemplated suicide, and the whole force of my hopeful philosophy was required to keep me from going over the side in the darkness of night.

Several times Wolf Larsen tried to inveigle me into discussion, but I gave him short answers and eluded him. Finally, he commanded me to resume my seat at the cabin table for a time and let the cook do my work. Then I spoke frankly, telling him what I was enduring from Thomas Mugridge because of the three days of favoritism which had been shown me. Wolf Larsen regarded me with smiling eyes.

'So you're afraid, eh?' he sneered.

'Yes,' I said defiantly and honestly, 'I am afraid.'

'That's the way with you fellows,' he cried half angrily; 'sentimentalizing about your immortal souls, and afraid to die. At sight of a sharp knife and a cowardly Cockney, the clinging of life to life overcomes all your fond foolishness. Why, my dear fellow, you will live forever. You are a god, and a god cannot be killed. Cooky cannot hurt you. You are sure of your resurrection. What's there to be afraid of?

'You have eternal life before you. You are a millionaire in immortality, a millionaire whose fortune cannot be lost, whose fortune is less perishable than the stars and as lasting as space or time. It is impossible for you to diminish your principal. Immortality is a thing without beginning or end. Eternity is eternity, and though you die here and now, you will go on living somewhere else and hereafter. And it is all very beautiful, this shaking off of the flesh and soaring of the imprisoned spirit. Cooky cannot hurt you. He can only give you a boost on the path you eternally must tread.

'Or, if you do not wish to be boosted just yet, why not boost Cooky? According to your ideas, he too must be an immortal millionaire. You cannot bankrupt him. His paper will always circulate at par. You cannot diminish the length of his living by killing him, for he is without beginning or end. He's bound to go on living, somewhere, somehow. Then boost him. Stick a knife in him and let his spirit free. As it is, it's in a nasty prison, and you'll do him only a kindness by breaking down the door. And who knows? It may be a very beautiful spirit that will go soaring up into the blue from that ugly carcass. Boost him along, and I'll promote you to his place, and he's getting forty-five dollars a month.'

It was plain that I could look for no help or mercy from Wolf Larsen. Whatever was to be done I must do for myself; and out of the courage of fear I evolved the plan of fighting Thomas Mugridge with his own weapons. I borrowed a whetstone from Johansen. Louis, the boat-steerer, had already begged me for condensed milk and sugar. The lazaret, where such delicacies were stored, was situated beneath the cabin floor. Watching my chance, I stole five cans of the milk, and that night, when it was Louis's watch on deck, I traded them with him for a dirk, as lean and cruel-looking as Thomas Mugridge's vegetable-knife. It was rusty and dull, but I turned the grindstone while Louis gave it an edge. I slept more soundly than usual that night.

Next morning, after breakfast, Thomas Mugridge began his whet, whet, whet. I glanced warily at him, for I was on my knees taking the ashes from the stove. When I returned from throwing them overside, he was talking to Harrison, whose honest yokel's face was filled with fascination and wonder.

'Yes,' Mugridge was saying, 'an' wot does 'is worship do but give me two years in Reading. But blimey if I cared. The other mug was fixed plenty. Should 'a' seen 'im. Knife just like this.' He shot a glance in my direction to see if I was taking it in, and went on with a gory narrative of his prowess.

A call from the mate interrupted him, and Harrison went aft. Mugridge sat down on the raised threshold to the galley and went on with his knife-sharpening. I put the shovel away and calmly sat down on the coal-box, facing him. He favored me with a vicious stare. Still calmly, though my heart was going pit-a-pat, I pulled out Louis's dirk and began to whet it on the stone. I had looked for almost any sort of explosion on the Cockney's part, but, to my surprise, he did not appear aware of what I was doing. He went on whetting his knife; so did I; and for two hours we sat there, face to face, whet, whet, the news of it spread abroad, and half the ship's company was crowding the galley doors to see the sight.

Encouragement and advice were freely tendered, and Jock Horner, the quiet, soft-spoken hunter who looked as though he would not harm a mouse, advised me to leave the ribs alone and to thrust upward, at the same time giving what he called the 'Spanish twist' to the blade. Leach, his bandaged arm prominently to the fore, begged me to leave a few remnants of the cook for him, and Wolf Larsen paused once or twice at the break of the poop to glance curiously at what must have been to him a stirring and crawling of the yeasty thing he knew as life.

And I make free to say that for the time being life assumed the same sordid values to me. There was nothing pretty about it, nothing divine – only two cowardly moving things that sat whetting steel upon stone, and a group of other moving things, cowardly and otherwise, that looked on. Half of them, I am sure, were anxious to see us shedding each other's blood. It would have been entertainment. And I do not think there was one who would have interfered had we closed in a death-struggle.

On the other hand, the whole thing was laughable and childish. Whet, whet, whet – Humphrey Van Weyden sharpening his knife in a ship's galley and trying its edge with his thumb. Of all situations this was the most inconceivable. I know that my own kind could not have believed it possible. I had not been called 'Sissy' Van Weyden all my days without reason, and that 'Sissy' Van Weyden should be capable of doing this thing was a revelation to Humphrey Van Weyden, who knew not whether to be exultant or ashamed.

But nothing happened. At the end of two hours Thomas Mugridge put away knife and stone and held out his hand.

'Wot's the good of mykin' a 'oly show of ourselves for them mugs?' he demanded. 'They don't love us, an' bloody well glad they'd be a-seein' us cuttin' our throats. Yer not 'arf bad, 'Ump. You've got spunk, as you Yanks s'y, an' I like yer in a w'y. So come on an' shyke.'

Coward that I might be, I was less a coward than he. It was a distinct victory I had gained, and I refused to forego any of it by shaking his detestable hand.

'All right,' he said pridelessly; 'tyke it or leave it. I'll like yer none the less for it.' And, to save his face, he turned fiercely upon the onlookers. 'Get outer my galley door, you bloomin' swabs!'

This command was reinforced by a steaming kettle of water, and at sight of it the sailors scrambled out of the way. This was a sort of victory for Thomas Mugridge and enabled him to accept more gracefully the defeat I had given him, though, of course, he was too discreet to attempt to drive the hunters away.

'I see Cooky's finish,' I heard Smoke say to Horner.

'You bet,' was the reply. 'Hump runs the galley from now on, and Cooky pulls in his horns.'

Mugridge heard and shot a swift glance at me, but I gave no sign that the conversation had reached me. I had not thought my victory was so far-reaching and complete, but I resolved to let go nothing I had gained. As the days went by, Smoke's prophecy was verified. The Cockney became more humble and slavish to me than even to Wolf Larsen. I mistered him and sirred him no longer, washed no more greasy pots, and peeled no more potatoes. I did my own work, and my own work only, and when and in what fashion I saw fit. Also, I carried the dirk in a sheath at my hip, sailor-fashion, and maintained toward Thomas Mugridge a constant attitude which was composed of equal parts of domineering, insult, and contempt.


MY INTIMACY WITH Wolf Larsen increased, if by intimacy may be denoted those relations which exist between master and man, or, better yet, between king and jester. I was to him no more than a toy, and he valued me no more than a child values a toy. My function was to amuse, and so long as I amused all went well; but let him become bored, or let him have one of his black moods come upon him, and at once I was relegated from cabin table to galley, while, at the same time, I was fortunate to escape with my life and a whole body.

The loneliness of the man was slowly being borne in upon me. There was not a man aboard but hated or feared him, nor was there a man whom he did not despise. He seemed consuming with the tremendous power that was in him and that seemed never to have found adequate expression in works. He was as Lucifer would be, were that proud spirit banished to a society of soulless, Tomlinsonian ghosts.

This loneliness was bad enough in itself, but, to make it worse, he was oppressed by the primal melancholy of the race. Knowing him, I reviewed the old Scandinavian myths with clearer understanding. The white-skinned, fair-haired savages who created that terrible pantheon were of the same fiber as he. The frivolity of the laughter-loving Latins was no part of him. When he laughed it was from a humor that was nothing else than ferocious. But he laughed rarely; he was too often sad. And it was a sadness as deep-reaching as the roots of the race. It was the race heritage, the sadness which had made the race sober-minded, clean-lived, and fanatically moral.

In point of fact, the chief vent to this primal melancholy has been religion in its more agonizing forms. But the compensations of such religion were denied Wolf Larsen. His brutal materialism would not permit it. So, when his blue moods came on, nothing remained for him but to be devilish. Had he not been so terrible a man, I could sometimes have felt sorry for him, as, for instance, one morning when I went into his state-room to fill his water-bottle and came unexpectedly upon him. He did not see me. His head was buried in his hands, and his shoulders were heaving convulsively as with sobs. He seemed torn by some mighty grief. As I softly withdrew, I could hear him groaning, 'God! God! God!' Not that he was calling upon God; it was a mere expletive, but it came from his soul.

At dinner he asked the hunters for a remedy for headache, and by evening, strong man that he was, he was half blind, and reeling about the cabin.

'I've never been sick in my life, Hump,' he said, as I guided him to his room. 'Nor did I ever have a headache except the time my head was healing after having been laid open for six inches by a capstan-bar.'

For three days this blinding headache lasted, and he suffered as wild animals suffer, as it seemed the way on ship to suffer, without plaint, without sympathy, utterly alone.

This morning, however, on entering his state-room to make the bed and put things in order, I found him well and hard at work. Table and bunk were littered with designs and calculations. On a large transparent sheet, compass and square in hand, he was copying what appeared to be a scale of some sort or other.

'Hello, Hump!' he greeted me genially. 'I'm just finished the finishing touches. Want to see it work?'

'But what is it?' I asked.

'A labor-saving device for mariners, navigation reduced to kindergarten simplicity,' he answered gaily. 'From today a child will be able to navigate a ship. No more long-winded calculations. All you need is one star in the sky on dirty night to know instantly where you are. Look. I place the transparent scale on this star-map, revolving the scale on the North Pole. On the scale I've worked out the circles of altitude and the lines of bearing. All I do is put it on a star, revolve the scale till it is opposite those figures on the map underneath, and presto, there you are, the ship's precise location!'

There was a ring of triumph in his voice, and his eyes, clear blue this morning as the sea, were sparkling with light.

'You must be well up in mathematics,' I said. 'Where did you go to school?' 'Never saw the inside of one, worse luck,' was the answer. 'I had to dig it out for myself.

'And why do you think I have made this thing?' he demanded abruptly. 'Dreaming to leave footprints on the sands of time?' He laughed one of his horrible mocking laughs. 'Not at all. To get it patented, to make money from it, to revel in piggishness, with all night in while other men do the work. That's my purpose. Also, I have enjoyed working it out.'

'The creative joy,' I murmured.

'I guess that's what it ought to be called. Which is another way of expressing the joy of life in that it is alive, the triumph of movement over matter, of the quick over the dead, the pride of the yeast because it is yeast and crawls.'

I threw up my hands with helpless disapproval of his inveterate materialism, and went about making the bed. He continued copying lines and figures upon the transparent scale. It was a task requiring the utmost nicety and precision, and I could not but admire the way he tempered his strength to the fineness and delicacy of the need.

When I had finished the bed, I caught myself looking at him in a fascinated sort of way. He was certainly a handsome man – beautiful in the masculine sense. And again, with never-failing wonder, I remarked the total lack of viciousness, or wickedness, or sinfulness, in his face. It was the face, I am convinced, of a man who did no wrong. And by this I do not wish to be misunderstood. What I mean is that it was the face of a man who either did nothing contrary to the dictates of his conscience, or who had no conscience. I incline to the latter way of accounting for it. He was a magnificent atavism, a man so purely primitive that he was of the type that came into the world before the development of the moral nature. He was not immoral, but merely unmoral.

As I have said, in the masculine sense his was a beautiful face. Smooth-shaven, every line was distinct, and it was cut as clear and sharp as a cameo; while sea and sun had tanned the naturally fair skin to a dark bronze which bespoke struggle and battle, and added to both his savagery and his beauty. The lips were full, yet possessed of the firmness, almost harshness, which is characteristic of thin lips. The set of his mouth, his chin, his jaw, was likewise firm or harsh, with all the fierceness and indomitableness of the male; the nose also. It was the nose of a being born to conquer and command. It just hinted of the eagle beak. It might have been Grecian, it might have been Roman, only it was a shade too massive for the one, a shade too delicate for the other. And while the whole face was the incarnation of fierceness and strength, the primal melancholy from which he suffered seemed to greaten the lines of mouth and eye and brow, seemed to give a largeness and completeness which otherwise the face would have lacked.

And so I caught myself standing idly and studying him. I cannot say how greatly the man had come to interest me. Who was he? What was he? How had he happened to be? All powers seemed his, all potentialities; why, then, was he no more than the obscure master of a seal-hunting schooner, with a reputation for frightful brutality among the men who hunted seals?

My curiosity burst from me in a flood of speech:

'Why is it that you have not done great things in this world? With the power that is yours you might have risen to any height. Unpossessed of conscience or moral instinct, you might have mastered the world, broken it to your hand. And yet here you are, at the top of your life, where diminishing and dying begin, living an obscure and sordid existence hunting sea-animals for the satisfaction of woman's vanity and love of decoration, reveling in a piggishness, to use your own words, which is anything and everything except splendid. Why, with all that wonderful strength, have you not done something? There was nothing to stop you, nothing that could stop you. What was wrong? Did you lack ambition? Did you fall under temptation? What was the matter? What was the matter?'

He had lifted his eyes to me at the beginning of my outburst and followed me complacently until I had done and stood before him breathless and dismayed. He waited a moment, as though seeing where to begin, and then said:

'Hump, do you know the parable of the sower who went forth to sow? If you will remember, some of the seed fell upon stony places, where there was not much earth, and forthwith they sprung up because they had no deepness of earth. And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprung up and choked them.'

'Well?' I said.

'Well?' he queried half petulantly. 'It was not well. I was one of those seeds.'

He dropped his head to the scale and resumed the copying. I finished my work, and had opened the door to leave, when he spoke to me.

'Hump, if you will look on the west coast of the map of Norway you will see an indentation called Romsdal Fiord. I was born within a hundred miles of that stretch of water. But I was not born Norwegian. I am a Dane. My father and mother were Danes, and how they ever came to that bleak bight of land on the west coast I do not know. I never heard. Outside of that, there is nothing mysterious. They were poor people and unlettered. They came of generations of poor, unlettered people – peasants of the sea who sowed their sons on the waves as has been their custom since time began. There is no more to tell.'

'But there is,' I objected. 'It is still obscure to me.'

'What can I tell you,' he demanded, with a recrudescence of fierceness, 'of the meagerness of a child's life – of fish diet and coarse living; of going out with the boats from the time I could crawl; of my brothers, who went away one by one to the deep-sea farming and never came back; of myself, unable to read or write, cabin-boy at the mature age of ten on the coastwise, old-country ships; of the rough fare and rougher usage, where kicks and blows were bed and breakfast and took the place of speech, and fear and hatred and pain were my only soul-experiences? I do not care to remember. A madness comes up in my brain even now as I think of it. But there were coastwise skippers I would have sought and killed when a man's strength came to me, only the lines of my life were cast at the time in other places. I did return, not long ago, but unfortunately the skippers were dead, all but one, a mate in the old days, a skipper when I met him, and when I left him, a cripple who would never walk again.'

'But you who read Spencer and Darwin and have never seen the inside of a school, how did you learn to read and write?' I queried.

'In the English merchant service. Cabin-boy at twelve, ship's boy at fourteen, ordinary seaman at sixteen, able seaman at seventeen and cock of the fo'c's'le; infinite ambition and infinite loneliness, receiving neither help nor sympathy, I did it all for myself – navigation, mathematics, science, literature, and what not. And of what use has it been? Master and owner of a ship at the top of my life, as you say, when I am beginning to diminish and die. Paltry, isn't it? And when the sun was up I was scorched, and because I had no root I withered away.'

'But history tells of slaves who rose to the purple,' I chided.

'And history tells of opportunities that came to the slaves who rose to the purple,' he answered grimly. 'No man makes opportunity. All the great men ever did was to know it when it came to them. The Corsican knew. I have dreamed as greatly as the Corsican. I should have known the opportunity, but it never came. The thorns sprung up and choked me. And, Hump, I can tell you that you know more about me than any living man except my own brother.'

'And what is he? And where is he?'

'Master of the steamship Macedonia, seal-hunter,' was the answer. 'We will meet him most probably on the Japan coast. Men call him "Death" Larsen.'

'Death Larsen!' I involuntarily cried. 'Is he like you?'

'Hardly. He is a lump of an animal without any head. He has all my – my-'

'Brutishness,' I suggested.

'Yes, thank you for the word – all my brutishness; but he can scarcely read or write.'

'And he has never philosophized on life,' I added.

'No,' Wolf Larsen answered, with an indescribable air of sadness. 'And he is all the happier for leaving life alone. He is too busy living it to think about it. My mistake was in ever opening the books.'


THE GHOST HAS ATTAINED the southernmost point of the arc she is describing across the Pacific, and is already beginning to edge away to the west and north toward some lone island, it is rumored, where she will fill her water-casks before proceeding to the season's hunt along the coast of Japan. The hunters have experimented and practiced with their rifles and shotguns till they are satisfied, and the boat-pullers and steerers have made their sprit-sails, bound the oars and rowlocks in leather and sennit so that they will make no noise when creeping on the seals, and put their boats in apple-pie order, to use Leach's homely phrase.

His arm, by the way, has healed nicely, though the scar will remain all his life. Thomas Mugridge lives in mortal fear of him, and is afraid to venture on deck after dark. There are two or three standing quarrels in the forecastle. Louis tells me that the gossip of the sailors finds its way aft, and that two of the telltales have been badly beaten by their mates. He shakes his head dubiously over the outlook for the man Johnson, who is boat-puller in the same boat with him. Johnson has been guilty of speaking his mind too freely, and has collided two or three times with Wolf Larsen over the pronunciation of his name. Johansen he thrashed on the amidships deck the other night, since which time the mate has called him by his proper name. But of course it is out of the question that Johnson should thrash Wolf Larsen.

Louis has also given me additional information about Death Larsen, which tallies with the captain's brief description. We may expect to meet Death Larsen on the Japan coast. 'And look out for squalls,' is Louis's prophecy, 'for they hate one another like the wolf-whelps they are.' Death Larsen is in command of the only sealing-steamer in the fleet, which carries fourteen boats, where the schooners carry only six. There is wild talk of cannon aboard, and of strange raids and expeditions she may make, ranging from opium-smuggling into the States and arms-smuggling into China, to black-birding and open piracy. Yet I cannot but believe Louis, for I have never yet caught him in a lie, while he has a cyclopedic knowledge of sealing and the men of the sealing-fleets.

As it is forward and in the galley, so it is in the steerage and aft, on this veritable hell-ship. Men fight and struggle ferociously for one another's lives. The hunters are looking for a shooting scrape at any moment between Smoke and Henderson, whose old quarrel has not healed, while Wolf Larsen says positively that he will kill the survivor of the affair if such affair comes off. He frankly states that the position he takes is based on no moral grounds, that all the hunters could kill and eat one another, so far as he is concerned, were it not that he needs them alive for the hunting. If they will only hold their hands until the season is over, he promises them a royal carnival, when all grudges can be settled and the survivors may toss the non-survivors overboard and arrange a story as to how the missing men were lost at sea. I think even the hunters are appalled at his cold-bloodedness. Wicked men though they be, they are certainly very much afraid of him.

Thomas Mugridge is cur-like in his subjection to me, while I go about in secret dread of him. His is the courage of fear, a strange thing I know well of myself, and at any moment it may master the fear and impel him to the taking of my life. My knee is much better, though it often aches for long periods, and the stiffness is gradually leaving the arm which Wolf Larsen squeezed. Otherwise I am in splendid condition, feel that I am in splendid condition. My muscles are growing harder and increasing in size. My hands, however, are a spectacle for grief. Also, I am suffering from boils, due to the diet most likely, for I was never so afflicted before.

I was amused, a couple of evenings back, by seeing Wolf Larsen reading the Bible, a copy of which, after the futile search for one at the beginning of the voyage, had been found in the dead mate's sea-chest. I wondered what Wolf Larsen could get from it, and he read aloud to me from Ecclesiastes. I could imagine he was speaking the thoughts of his own mind as he read to me, and his voice, reverberating deeply and mournfully in the confined cabin, charmed and held me. He may be uneducated, but he certainly knows how to express the significance of the written word. I can hear him now, as I shall always hear him, the primal melancholy vibrant in his voice, as he read from Ecclesiastes the passage beginning: 'I gathered me also silver and gold.'

'There you have it, Hump,' he said, closing the book upon his finger and looking up at me. 'The Preacher who was king over Israel in Jerusalem thought as I think. You call me a pessimist. Is not this pessimism of the blackest? – 'all is vanity and vexation of spirit'; 'there is no profit under the sun'; 'there is one event unto all,' to the fool and the wise, the clean and the unclean, the sinner and the saint; and that event is death, and an evil thing, he says. For the Preacher loved life, and did not want to die, saying, 'For a living dog is better than a dead lion.' He preferred the vanity and vexation to the silence and unmovableness of the grave. And so I. To crawl is piggish; but to not crawl, to be as the clod and rock, is loathsome to contemplate. It is loathsome to the life that is in me, the very essence of which is movement, the power of movement, and the consciousness of the power of movement. Life itself is unsatisfaction, but to look ahead to death is greater unsatisfaction.'

'You are worse off than Omar,' I said. 'He, at least, after the customary agonizing of youth, found content and made of his materialism a joyous thing.'

'Who was Omar?' Wolf Larsen asked, and I did no more work that day, nor the next, or next.

In his random reading he had never chanced upon the 'Rubaiyat,' and it was to him like a great find of treasure. Much I remembered, possibly two thirds of the quatrains, and I managed to piece out the remainder without difficulty. We talked for hours over single stanzas, and I found him reading into them a wail of regret and a rebellion which for the life of me I could not discover myself. Possibly I recited with a certain joyous lilt which was my own, for – his memory was good, and at a second rendering, very often the first, he made a quatrain his own – he recited the same lines and invested them with an unrest and passionate revolt that were well-nigh convincing.

I was interested as to which quatrain he would like best, and was not surprised when he hit upon the one born of an instant's irritability and quite at variance with the Persian's complacent philosophy and genial code of life:

What, without asking, hither hurried Whence?
And, without asking, Whither hurried hence!
Oh, many a Cup of this forbidden Wine
Must drown the memory of that insolence!

'Great!' Wolf Larsen cried. 'Great! That's the keynote. Insolence! He could not have used a better word.'

In vain I objected and denied. He deluged me, overwhelmed me with argument.

'It's not the nature of life to be otherwise. Life, when it knows that it must cease living, will always rebel. It cannot help itself. The Preacher found life and the works of life all a vanity and vexation, an evil thing; but death, the ceasing to be able to be vain and vexed, he found an eviler thing. Through chapter after chapter he is worried by the one event that cometh to all alike. So Omar, so I, so you, even you, for you rebelled against dying when Cooky sharpened a knife for you. You were afraid to die; the life that was in you, that composes you, that is greater than you, did not want to die. You have talked of the instinct of immortality. I talk of the instinct of life, which is to live, and which, when death looms near and large, masters the instinct, so called, of immortality. It mastered it in you (you cannot deny it), because a crazy Cockney cook sharpened a knife.

'You are afraid of him now. You are afraid of me. You cannot deny it. If I catch you by the throat thus,' – his hand was about my throat, and my breath was shut off, – 'and begin to press the life out of you, thus, and thus, your instinct of immortality will go glimmering, and your instinct of life, which is longing for life, will flutter up, and you will struggle to save yourself. Eh? I see the fear of death in your eyes. You beat the air with your arms. You exert all your puny strength to struggle to live. Your hand is clutching my arm; lightly it feels as a butterfly resting there. Your chest is heaving, your tongue protruding, your skin turning dark, your eyes swimming. "To live! To live! To live!" you are crying; and you are crying to live here and now, not hereafter. You doubt your immortality, eh? Ha! ha! You are not sure of it. You won't chance it. This life only you are certain is real. Ah, it is growing dark and darker. It is the darkness of death, the ceasing to be, the ceasing to feel, the ceasing to move, that is gathering about you, descending upon you, rising around you. Your eyes are becoming set. They are glazing. My voice sounds faint and far. You cannot see my face. And still you struggle in my grip. You kick with your legs. Your body draws itself up in knots like a snake's. Your chest heaves and strains. To live! To live! To live – '

I heard no more. Consciousness was blotted out by the darkness he had so graphically described, and when I came to myself I was lying on the floor, and he was smoking a cigar and regarding me thoughtfully with that old, familiar light of curiosity in his eyes.

'Well, have I convinced you?' he demanded. 'Here, take a drink of this. I want to ask you some questions.'

I rolled my head negatively on the floor. 'Your arguments are too – er – forcible,' I managed to articulate, at cost of great pain to my aching throat.

'You'll be all right in half an hour,' he assured me. 'And I promise I won't use any more physical demonstrations. Get up now. You can sit on a chair.'

And, toy that I was of this monster, the discussion of Omar and the Preacher was resumed. And half the night we sat up over it.


THE LAST TWENTY-FOUR HOURS have witnessed a carnival of brutality. From cabin to forecastle it seems to have broken out like a contagion. I scarcely know where to begin. Wolf Larsen was really the cause of it. The relations among the men, strained and made tense by feuds, quarrels, and grudges, were in a state of unstable equilibrium. Wolf Larsen disturbed the equilibrium, and evil passions flared up like flame in prairie-grass.

Thomas Mugridge was proving himself a sneak, a spy, an informer. He attempted to curry favor and reinstate himself in the good graces of the captain by carrying tales of the men forward. He it was, I know, that carried some of Johnson's hasty talk to Wolf Larsen. Johnson, it seems, had bought a suit of oilskins from the slop-chest and found them to be of greatly inferior quality. Nor was he slow in advertising the fact. The slop-chest is a sort of miniature dry-goods store which is carried by all sealing-schooners and which is stocked with articles peculiar to the needs of the sailors. Whatever a sailor purchases is taken from his subsequent earnings on the sealing-grounds; for, as it is with the hunters, so it is with the boat-pullers and steerers: in the place of wages, they receive a 'lay,' a rate of so much per skin for every skin captured in their particular boat.

But of Johnson's grumbling at the slop-chest I knew nothing, so that what I witnessed came with the shock of sudden surprise. I had just finished sweeping the cabin, and had been inveigled by Wolf Larsen into a discussion of Hamlet, his favorite Shakespearean character, when Johansen descended the companion-stairs, followed by Johnson. The latter's cap came off, after the custom of the sea, and he stood respectfully in the middle of the cabin, swaying heavily and uneasily to the roll of the schooner, and facing the captain.

'Shut the doors and draw the slide,' Wolf Larsen said to me.

I noticed an anxious light in Johnson's eyes, but mistook it for the native shyness and embarrassment of the man. The mate, Johansen, stood away several feet to the side of him, and fully three yards in front of him sat Wolf Larsen on one of the revolving cabin chairs. An appreciable pause fell after I had closed the doors and drawn the slide – a pause that must have lasted fully a minute. It was broken by Wolf Larsen.

'Yonson,' he began.

'My name is Johnson, sir,' the sailor boldly corrected.

'Well, Johnson, then, – you! Can you guess why I have sent for you?'

'Yes, and no, sir,' was the slow reply. 'My work is done well. The mate knows that, and you know it, sir. So there cannot be any complaint.'

'And is that all?' Wolf Larsen queried, his voice soft and low and purring.

'I know you have it in for me,' Johnson continued with his unalterable and ponderous slowness. 'You do not like me. You – you-'

'Go on,' Wolf Larsen prompted. 'Don't be afraid of my feelings.'

'I am not afraid,' the sailor retorted, a slight angry flush rising through his sunburn. 'You do not like me because I am too much of a man, that is why, sir.'

'You are too much of a man for ship discipline, if that is what you mean, and if you know what I mean,' was Wolf Larsen's retort.

'I know English, and I know what you mean, sir,' Johnson answered, his flush deepening at the slur on his knowledge of the English language.

'Johnson,' Wolf Larsen said, with an air of dismissing all that had gone before as introductory to the main business in hand, 'I understand you're not quite satisfied with those oilskins.'

'No, I am not. They are no good, sir.'

'And you've been shooting off your mouth about them.'

'I say what I think, sir,' the sailor answered courageously, not failing at the same time in ship courtesy, which demanded that 'sir' be appended to each speech he made.

It was at this moment that I chanced to glance at Johansen. His big fists were clenching and unclenching, and his face was positively fiendish, so malignantly did he look at Johnson. I noticed a black discoloration, still faintly visible, under Johansen's eye, a mark of the thrashing he had received a few nights before from the sailor. For the first time I began to divine that something terrible was about to be enacted – what, I could not imagine.

'Do you know what happens to men who say what you've said about my slop-chest and me?' Wolf Larsen was demanding.

'I know, sir,' was the answer.

'What?' Wolf Larsen demanded sharply and imperatively.

'What you and the mate there are going to do to me, sir.'

At this Larsen sprang from the sitting posture like a wild animal, a tiger, and like a tiger covered the intervening space in an avalanche of fury that Johnson strove vainly to fend off. He threw one arm down to protect the stomach, the other arm up to protect the head; but Wolf Larsen's fist drove midway between, on the chest, with a crushing, resounding impact. Johnson's breath, suddenly expelled, shot from his mouth, and as suddenly checked, with the forced, audible expiration of a man wielding an ax. He almost fell backward, and swayed from side to side in an effort to recover his balance.

Johnson fought bravely enough, but he was no match for Wolf Larsen, much less for Wolf Larsen and the mate. It was frightful. I had not imagined a human being could endure so much and still live and struggle on. And struggle on Johnson did. Of course there was no hope for him, not the slightest, and he knew it as well as I, but by the manhood that was in him he could not cease from fighting for that manhood.

It was too much for me to witness. I felt that I should lose my mind, and I ran up the companion-stairs to open the doors and escape on deck. But Wolf Larsen, leaving his victim for the moment, and with one of his tremendous springs, gained my side, and flung me into the far corner of the cabin.

'The phenomenon of life, Hump,' he girded at me. 'Stay and watch it. You may gather data on the immortality of the soul. Besides, you know, we can't hurt Johnson's soul. It's only the fleeting form we may demolish.'

It seemed centuries, possibly it was no more than ten minutes, that the beating continued. And when Johnson could no longer rise, they still continued to beat and kick him where he lay.

'Easy, Johansen; easy as she goes,' Wolf Larsen finally said.

But the beast in the mate was up and rampant, and Wolf Larsen was compelled to brush him away with a back-handed sweep of the arm, gentle enough, apparently, but which hurled Johansen back like a cork, driving his head against the wall with a crash. He fell to the floor, half stunned for the moment, breathing heavily and blinking his eyes in a stupid sort of way.

'Jerk open the doors, Hump,' Larsen commanded.

I obeyed, and the two brutes picked up the senseless man like a sack of rubbish and hove him clear up the companion-stairs, through the narrow doors, and out on deck. Louis, his boat-mate, gave a turn of the wheel and gazed imperturbably into the binnacle.

Not so George Leach, the erstwhile cabin-boy. Fore and aft there was nothing that could have surprised us more than his consequent behavior. He it was that came up on the poop, without orders, and dragged Johnson forward, where he set about dressing his wounds as well as he could and making him comfortable.

I had come up on deck for a breath of fresh air and to try to get some repose for my overwrought nerves. Wolf Larsen was smoking a cigar and examining the patent log which the Ghost usually towed astern, but which had been hauled in for some purpose. Suddenly Leach's voice came to my ears. It was tense and hoarse with an overmastering rage. I turned and saw him standing just beneath the break of the poop on the port side of the galley. His face was convulsed and white, his eyes were flashing, his clenched fists raised overhead, as the boy hurled his imprecations recklessly full in the face of the captain, who had sauntered slowly forward to the break of the poop, and leaning his elbow on the corner of the cabin, gazed down thoughtfully and curiously at the excited boy.

Leach went on, indicting Wolf Larsen as he had never been indicted before. The sailors assembled in a fearful group just outside the forecastle scuttle, and watched and listened. The hunters piled pell-mell out of the steerage, but as Leach's tirade continued I saw that there was no levity in their faces. Even they were frightened, not at the boy's terrible words, but at his terrible audacity. It did not seem possible that any living creature could thus beard Wolf Larsen to his teeth. I know for myself that I was shocked into admiration of the boy, and I saw in him the splendid invincibleness of immortality rising above the flesh and the fears of the flesh, as in the prophets of old, to condemn unrighteousness.

And such condemnation! He haled forth Wolf Larsen's soul naked to the scorn of men. He rained upon it curses from God and high heaven, and withered it with a heat of invective that savored of a medieval excommunication of the Catholic Church. He ran the gamut of denunciation, rising to heights of wrath, and from sheer exhaustion sinking to the most indecent abuse.

Everybody looked for Larsen to leap upon the boy and destroy him. But it was not his whim. His cigar went out, and he continued to gaze silently and curiously.

Leach had worked himself into an ecstasy of impotent rage.

'Pig! Pig! Pig!' he was reiterating at the top of his lungs. 'Why don't you come down and kill me, you murderer? You can do it. I ain't afraid. There's no one to stop you! Come on, you coward! Kill me! Kill me! Kill me!'

It was at this stage that Thomas Mugridge's erratic soul brought him into the scene. He had been listening at the galley door, but he now came out, ostensibly to fling some scraps over the side, but obviously to see the killing he was certain would take place. He smirked greasily up into the face of Wolf Larsen, who seemed not to see him. But the Cockney was unabashed, and turned to Leach, saying:

'Such language! Shockin'!'

Leach's rage was no longer impotent. Here at last was something ready to hand, and for the first time since the stabbing the Cockney had appeared outside the galley without his knife. The words had barely left his mouth when he was knocked down by Leach. Three times he struggled to his feet, striving to gain the galley, and each time was knocked down.

'Oh, Lord!' he cried. ''Elp! 'Elp! Tyke 'im aw'y, carn't yer? Tyke 'im aw'y!'

The hunters laughed from sheer relief. Tragedy had dwindled, the farce had begun. The sailors now crowded boldly aft, grinning and shuffling, to watch the pommeling of the hated Cockney. And even I felt a great joy surge up within me. I confess that I delighted in this beating Leach was giving to Thomas Mugridge, though it was as terrible, almost, as the one Mugridge had caused to be given to Johnson. But the expression of Wolf Larsen's face did not change, – nor did his position. For all his pragmatic certitude, it seemed as if he watched the play and movement of life in the hope of discovering something more about it. And no one interfered. Leach could have killed the Cockney, but, having evidently filled the measure of his vengeance, he drew away from his prostrate foe, who was whimpering and wailing in a puppyish sort of way, and walked forward.

But these two affairs were only the opening events of the day's program. In the afternoon Smoke and Henderson fell foul of each other, and a fusillade of shots came up from the steerage, followed by a stampede of the other four hunters for the deck. A column of thick, acrid smoke, the kind always made by black powder, was arising through the open companion-way, and down through it leaped Wolf Larsen. The sound of blows and scuffling came to our ears. Both men were wounded, and he was thrashing them both for having disobeyed his orders and crippled themselves in advance of the hunting season. In fact, they were badly wounded, and, having thrashed them, he proceeded to operate upon them in a rough surgical fashion and to dress their wounds. I served as assistant while he probed and cleansed the passages made by the bullets, and I saw the two men endure his crude surgery without anesthetics and with no more to uphold them than a stiff tumbler of whiskey.

Then, in the first dog-watch, trouble came to a head in the forecastle. It took its rise out of the tittle-tattle and tale-bearing that had been the cause of Johnson's beating, and from the noise we heard, and from the sight of the bruised men next day, it was patent that half the forecastle had soundly drubbed the other half.

The second dog-watch and the day wound up with a fight between Johansen and the lean, Yankee-looking hunter, Latimer. It was caused by some remarks of Latimer's concerning the noises made by the mate in his sleep, and though Johansen was whipped, he kept the steerage awake for the rest of the night while he blissfully slumbered and fought the fight over and over again.


FOR THREE DAYS I DID MY OWN work and Thomas Mugridge's too, and I flatter myself that I did his work well. I know that it won Wolf Larsen's approval, while the sailors beamed with satisfaction during the brief time my regime lasted.

'The first clean bite since I come aboard Harrison said to me at the galley door, as he returned the dinner pots and pans from the forecastle. 'Somehow, Tommy's grub always tastes of grease, – stale grease, – and I reckon he ain't changed his shirt since he left 'Frisco.'

'I know he hasn't,' I answered.

'And I'll bet he sleeps in it,' Harrison added.

'And you won't lose,' I agreed. 'The same shirt, and he hasn't had it off once in all this time.'

But three days were all Wolf Larsen allowed him in which to recover from the effects of the beating. On the fourth day, lame and sore, scarcely able to see, so closed were his eyes, he was haled from his bunk by the nape of the neck and set to his duty. He sniffled and wept, but Wolf Larsen was pitiless.

'And see that you serve no more slops,' was his parting injunction. 'No more grease and dirt, mind, and a clean shirt occasionally, or you'll get a tow over the side. Understand?'

Thomas Mugridge crawled weakly across the galley floor, and a short lurch of the Ghost sent him staggering. In attempting to recover himself, he reached for the iron railing which surrounded the stove and kept the pots from sliding off; but his missed the railing, and his hand, with his weight behind it, landed squarely on the hot surface.

'Oh, Gawd, Gawd, wot 'ave I done?' he wailed, sitting down in the coalbox and nursing his new hurt by rocking back and forth. 'W'y 'as all this come on me? It mykes me fair sick, it does, an' I try so 'ard to go through life harmless an' 'urtin' nobody.'

The tears were running down his puffed and discolored cheeks, and his face was drawn with pain. A savage expression flitted across it.

'Oh, 'ow I 'ate 'im! 'Ow I 'ate 'im!' he gritted out.

'Whom?' I asked; but the poor wretch was weeping again over his misfortunes. Less difficult it was to guess whom he hated than whom he did not hate; for I had come to see a malignant devil in him which impelled him to hate all the world. I sometimes thought that he hated even himself, so grotesquely had life dealt with him, and so monstrously. At such moments a great sympathy welled up within me, and I felt shame that I had ever joyed in his discomfiture or pain. Life had been unfair to him. It had played him a scurvy trick when it fashioned him into the thing he was, and it had played him scurvy tricks ever since. What chance had he to be anything else than what he was? And as though answering my unspoken thought, he wailed:

'I never 'ad no chance, nor 'arf a chance! 'Oo was there to send me to school, or put tommy in my 'ungry bell w'en I was a kiddy? 'Oo ever did anything for me, heh? 'oo, I s'y?'

'Never mind, Tommy,' I said, placing a soothing hand on his shoulder. 'Cheer up. It'll all come right in the end. You've long years before you, and you can make anything you please of yourself.'

'It's a lie!' he shouted in my face, flinging off the hand. 'It's a lie, an' you know it. I'm already myde, an' myde out of leavin's an' scraps. It's all right for you, 'Ump. You was born a gentleman. You never knew wot it was to go 'ungry, to cry yerself asleep with a gnawin' an' gnawin', like a rat, inside yer. It carn't come right. If I was President of the United Stytes to-morrer, low would it fill my belly for one time w'en I was a kiddy an' it went empty?

''Ow could it, I s'y? I was born to sufferin' and' sorrer. I've 'ad more cruel sufferin' than any ten men, I 'ave. I've been in 'orspital 'arf my bleedin' life. I've 'ad the fever in Aspinwall, in 'Avana, in New Orleans. I near died of the scurvy, an' rotten with it six months in Barbados. Smallpox in 'Onolulu, two broken legs in Shanghai, pneumonia in Unalaska, three busted ribs an' my insides all twisted in 'Frisco. An' 'ere I am now. Look at me! Look at me! My ribs kicked loose from my back again. I'll be coughin' blood before eyght bells. 'Ow can it be myde up to me, I arsk? 'Oo's goin' to do it? Gawd? 'Ow Gawd must 'ave 'ated me w'en 'e signed me on for a voyage in this bloomin' world of 'is!'

This tirade against destiny went on for an hour or more, and then he buckled to his work, limping and groaning, and in his eyes a great hatred for all created things.

Several days more passed before Johnson crawled on deck and went about his work in a half-hearted way. He was still a sick man, and I more than once observed him creeping painfully aloft to a topsail or drooping wearily as he stood at the wheel. But, still worse, it seemed that his spirit was broken. He was abject before Wolf Larsen, and almost groveled to Johansen. Not so Leach. He went about the deck like a tiger-cub, glaring his hatred openly at Wolf Larsen and Johansen.

'I'll do for you yet, you slab-footed Swede.' I heard him say to Johansen one night on deck.

The mate cursed him in the darkness, and the next moment some missile struck the galley a sharp rap. There was more cursing, and a mocking laugh, and when all was quiet I stole outside and found a heavy knife embedded over an inch in the solid wood. A few minutes later the mate came fumbling about in search of it, but I returned it privily to Leach next day. He grinned when I handed it over, yet it was a grin that contained more sincere thanks than a multitude of the verbosities of speech common to the members of my own class.

Unlike any one else in the ship's company, I now found myself with no quarrels on my hands and in the good graces of all. The hunters possibly no more than tolerated me, though none of them disliked me; while Smoke and Henderson, convalescent under a deck awning and swinging day and night in their hammocks, assured me that I was better than any hospital nurse, and that they would not forget me at the end of the voyage when they were paid off. As though I stood in need of their money – I, who could have bought them out, bag and baggage, and the schooner and its equipment, a hundred times over! But upon me had devolved the task of tending their wounds and pulling them through, and I did my best by them.

Wolf Larsen underwent another bad attack of headache, which lasted two days. He must have suffered severely, for he called me in and obeyed my commands like a sick child. But nothing I could do seemed to relieve him. At my suggestion, however, he gave up smoking and drinking, though why so magnificent an animal as he should have headaches at all puzzled me.

''T is the hand of God, I'm tellin' you,' was the way Louis saw it. ''T is a visitation for his black-hearted deeds, an' there's more behind an' comin', or else-'

'Or else,' I prompted.

'God is noddin' an' not doin' his duty, though it's me as shouldn't say it.' I was mistaken when I said that I was in the good graces of all. Not only did Thomas Mugridge continue to hate me, but he had discovered a new reason for hating me. It took me no little while to puzzle it out, but I finally discovered that it was because I was more luckily born than he – 'gentleman born,' he put it.

'And still no more dead men,' I twitted Louis, when Smoke and Henderson, side by side, in friendly conversation, took their first exercise on deck.

Louis surveyed me with his shrewd gray eyes and shook his head portentously.

'She's a-comin', I tell you, an' it'll be sheets an' halyards, stand by all hands, when she begins to howl. I've had the feel iv it this long time, an' I can feel it now as plainly as I feel the riggin' iv a dark night. She's close, she's close.'

'Who goes first?' I queried.

'Not old fat Louis, I promise you,' he laughed. 'For 't is in the bones iv me I know that come this time next year I'll be gazin' in the old mother's eyes, weary with watchin' iv the sea for the five sons she gave to it.'

'Wot's'e been s'yin' to yer?' Thomas Mugridge demanded a moment later.

'That he's going home some day to see his mother,' I answered diplomatically.

'I never 'ad none,' was the Cockney's comment, as he gazed with lusterless, hopeless eyes into mine.


IT DAWNED UPON ME THAT I had never placed a proper valuation upon womankind. For that matter, though not amative to any considerable degree, so far as I have discovered, I was never outside the atmosphere of women until now. My mother and sisters were always about me, and I was always trying to escape them, for they worried me to distraction with their solicitude for my health, and with their periodic inroads on my den, when my orderly confusion, upon which I prided myself, was turned into worse confusion and less order, though it looked neat enough to the eye. I never could find anything when they had departed. But now, alas! how welcome would have been the feel of their presence, the frou-frou and swish-swish of their skirts, which I had so cordially detested! I am sure, if I ever get home, that I shall never be irritable with them again. They may dose me and doctor me morning, noon, and night, and dust and sweep and put my den to rights every minute of the day, and I shall only lean back and survey it all and be thankful that I am possessed of a mother and some several sisters.

All of which has set me wondering. Where are the mothers of these twenty and odd men on the Ghost? It strikes me as unnatural and unhealthful that men should be totally separated from women and herd through the world by themselves. Coarseness and savagery are the inevitable results. These men about me should have sisters and wives and daughters; then would they be capable of softness and tenderness and sympathy. As it is, not one of them is married. In years and years not one of them has been in contact with a good woman, or within the influence, or redemption, which irresistibly radiates from such a creature. There is no balance in their lives. Their masculinity, which in itself is of the brute, has been overdeveloped. The other and spiritual side of their natures has been dwarfed – atrophied, in fact.

Rendered curious by this new direction of ideas, I talked with Johansen last night – the first superfluous words with which he has favored me since the voyage began. He left Sweden when he was eighteen, is now thirty-eight, and in all the intervening time has not been home once. He had met a townsman, a couple of years before, in some sailor boarding-house in Chile, so that he knew his mother to be still alive.

'She must be a pretty old woman now,' he said, staring meditatively into the binnacle and then jerking a sharp glance at Harrison, who was steering a point off the course.

'When did you last write to her?'

He performed his mental arithmetic aloud. 'Eighty-one; no – eighty-two, eh? no – eighty-three? Yes, eighty-three. Ten years ago. From some little port in Madagascar. I was trading.'

'You see,' he went on, as though addressing his neglected mother across half the girth of the earth, 'each year I was going home. So what was the good to write? It was only a year. And each year something happened, and I did not go. But I am mate now, and when I pay off at 'Frisco, maybe with five hundred dollars, I will ship myself on a windjammer round the Horn to Liverpool, which will give me more money; and then I will pay my passage from there home. Then she will not do any more work.'

'But does she work? Now? How old is she?'

'About seventy,' he answered. And then, boastingly: 'We work from the time we are born until we die, in my country. That's why we live so long. I will live to a hundred.'

I shall never forget this conversation. The words were the last I ever heard him utter. Perhaps they were the last he did utter, too.

Going down into the cabin to turn in, I decided that it was too stuffy to sleep below. It was a calm night. We were out of the trades, and the Ghost was forging ahead barely a knot an hour. So I tucked a blanket and pillow under my arm and went up on deck.

As I passed between Harrison and the binnacle, which was built into the top of the cabin, I noticed that he was this time fully three points off. Thinking that he was asleep, and wishing him to escape reprimand or worse, I spoke to him. But he was not asleep. His eyes were wide and staring. He seemed greatly perturbed, unable to reply to me.

'What's the matter?' I asked. 'Are you sick?'

He shook his head, and with a deep sigh, as of awakening, caught his breath.

'You better get on your course, then,' I chided.

He put a few spokes over, and I watched the compass-card swing slowly to NNW and steady itself with slight oscillations.

I took a fresh hold on my bedclothes and was preparing to start on, when some movement caught my eye, and I looked astern to the rail. A sinewy hand, dripping with water, was clutching the rail. A second hand took form in the darkness beside it. I watched, fascinated. What visitant from the gloom of the deep was I to behold? Whatever it was, I knew that it was climbing aboard by the log-line. I saw a head, the hair wet and straight, shape itself, and then the unmistakable eyes and face of Wolf Larsen. His right cheek was red with blood, which flowed from some wound in the head.

He drew himself inboard with a quick effort, and rose to his feet, glancing swiftly, as he did so, at the man at the wheel, as though to assure himself of his identity and that there was nothing to fear from him. The sea-water was streaming from him.

'All right, Hump,' he said in a low voice. 'Where's the mate?'

I shook my head.

'Johansen!' he called softly. 'Johansen!'

'Where is he?' he demanded of Harrison.

The young fellow seemed to have recovered his composure, for he answered steadily enough:

'I don't know, sir. I saw him go for'ard a little while ago.'

'So did I go for'ard; but you will observe that I didn't come back the way I went. Can you explain it?'

'You must have been overboard, sir.'

'Shall I look for him in the steerage, sir?' I asked.

Wolf Larsen shook his head.

'You wouldn't find him, Hump. But you'll do. Come on. Never mind your bedding. Leave it where it is.'

I followed at his heels. There was nothing stirring amidships.

'Those cursed hunters!' was his comment. 'Too fat and lazy to stand a four-hour watch.'

But on the forecastle head we found three sailors asleep. He turned them over and looked at their faces. They composed the watch on deck, and it was the ship's custom, in good weather, to let the watch sleep, with the exception of the officer, the helmsman, and the lookout.

'Who's lookout?' he demanded.

'Me, sir,' answered Holyoak, one of the deep-water sailors, a slight tremor in his voice. 'I winked off just this very minute, sir. I'm sorry, sir. It won't happen again.'

'Did you hear or see anything on deck?'

'No, sir; I-'

But Wolf Larsen had turned away with a snort of disgust, leaving the sailor rubbing his eyes with surprise at having been let off so easily.

'Softly, now,' Wolf Larsen warned me in a whisper, as he doubled his body into the forecastle scuttle and prepared to descend.

I followed with a quaking heart. What was to happen I knew no more than did I know what had happened. But blood had been shed, and it was through no whim of Wolf Larsen's that he had gone over the side with his scalp laid open. Besides, Johansen was missing.

It was my first descent into the forecastle, and I shall not soon forget my impression of it, caught as I stood on my feet at the bottom of the ladder. Built directly in the eyes of the schooner, it was of the shape of a triangle, along the three sides of which stood the bunks, in double tier – twelve of them. It was no larger than a hall bedroom in Grub street, and yet twelve men were herded into it, to eat and sleep and carry on all the functions of living. My bedroom at home was not large, yet it could have contained a dozen similar forecastles, and taking into consideration the height of the ceiling, a score at least.

It smelled sour and musty, and by the dim light of the swinging sea-lamp I saw every bit of available wall-space hung deep with sea-boots, oilskins, and garments, clean and dirty, of various sorts. These swung back and forth with every roll of the vessel, giving rise to a brushing sound, as of trees against a roof or wall. Somewhere a boot thumped loudly and at irregular periods against the wall; and, though it was a mild night on the sea, there was a continual chorus of the creaking timbers and bulkheads, and of abysmal noises beneath the flooring.

The sleepers did not mind. There were eight of them, – the two watches below, – and the air was thick with the warmth and odor of their breathing, and the ear was filled with the noise of their snoring, and of their sighs and half-groans – tokens plain of the rest of the animal-man. But were they sleeping – all of them? Or had they been sleeping? This was evidently Wolf Larsen's quest – to find the men who appeared to be asleep, and who were not asleep or who had not been asleep very recently. And he went about it in a way that reminded me of a story out of Boccaccio.

He took the sea-lamp from its swinging frame and handed it to me. He began at the first bunks forward on the starboard side. In the top one lay Oofty-Oofty, a Kanaka and a splendid seaman, so named by his mates. He was asleep on his back and breathing as placidly as a woman. One arm was under his head, the other lay on top of the blankets. Wolf Larsen put thumb and forefinger to the wrist and counted the pulse. In the midst of it the Kanaka roused. He awoke as gently as he slept. There was no movement of the body whatever. Only the eyes moved. They flashed wide open, big and black, and stared unblinking into our faces. Wolf Larsen put his finger to his lips as a sign for silence, and the eyes closed again.

In the lower bunk lay Louis, grossly fat and warm and sweaty, asleep unfeignedly, and sleeping laboriously. While Wolf Larsen held his wrist he stirred uneasily, bowing his body so that for a moment it rested on shoulders and heels. His lips moved, and he gave voice to this enigmatic utterance:

'A shilling's worth a quarter; but keep your lamps out for thruppenny bits, or the publicans'll shove 'em on you for sixpence.'

Then he rolled over on his side with a heavy, sobbing sigh, saying:

'A sixpence is a tanner, and a shilling a bob, but what a pony is I don't know.'

Satisfied with the honesty of his and the Kanaka's sleep, Wolf Larsen passed on to the next two bunks on the starboard side, occupied top and bottom, as we saw in the light of the sea-lamp, by Leach and Johnson.

As Wolf Larsen bent down to the lower bunk to take Johnson's pulse, I, standing erect and holding the lamp, saw Leach's head raise stealthily as he peered over the side of his bunk to see what was going on. He must have divined Wolf Larsen's trick and the sureness of detection, for the light was at once dashed from my hand and the forecastle left in darkness. He must have leaped, also, at the same instant, straight down on Wolf Larsen.

The first sounds were those of a conflict between a bull and a wolf. I heard a great infuriated bellow go up from Wolf Larsen, and from Leach a snarling that was desperate and blood-curdling. Johnson must have joined him immediately, so that his abject and groveling conduct on deck for the last few days had been no more than planned deception.

I was so terror-stricken by this fight in the dark that I leaned against the ladder, trembling and unable to ascend. And upon me was that old sickness at the pit of the stomach, caused always by the spectacle of physical violence. In this instance I could not see, but I could hear the impact of the blows – the soft crushing sound made by flesh striking forcibly against flesh. Then there was the crashing about of the entwined bodies, the labored breathing, the short quick gasps of sudden pain.

There must have been more men in the conspiracy to murder the captain and the mate, for by the sounds I knew that Leach and Johnson had been quickly reinforced.

'Get a knife, somebody!' Leach was shouting.

'Pound him on the head! Mash his brains out!' was Johnson's cry.

But after his first bellow Wolf Larsen made no noise. He was fighting grimly and silently for very life. Down at the very first, he had been unable to gain his feet, and for all of his tremendous strength I felt that there was no hope for him.

The force with which they struggled was vividly impressed on me, for I was knocked down by their surging bodies and badly bruised. But in the confusion I managed to crawl into a lower bunk out of the way.

'All hands! We've got him! We've got him!' I could hear Leach crying.

'Who?' asked those who had been asleep.

'It's the bloody mate!' was Leach's crafty answer. The words were strained from him in a smothered sort of way.

This was greeted with whoops of joy, and from then on Wolf Larsen had seven strong men on top of him, Louis, I believe, taking no part in it. The forecastle was like an angry hive of bees.

'What's the row there?' I heard Latimer shout down the scuttle, too cautious to descend into the inferno.

'Won't somebody get a knife?' Leach pleaded in the first interval of comparative silence.

The number of the assailants was a cause of confusion. They blocked their own efforts, while Wolf Larsen, with but a single purpose, achieved his. This was to fight his way across the floor to the ladder. Though in total darkness, I followed his progress by its sound. No man less than a giant could have done what he did, once he had gained the foot of the ladder. Step by step, by the might of his arms, the whole pack of men striving to drag him back and down, he drew his body up from the floor till he stood erect. And then, step by step, hand and foot, he slowly struggled up the ladder.

The very last of all, I saw. For Latimer, having finally gone for a lantern, held it so that its light shone down the scuttle. Wolf Larsen was nearly to the top, though I could not see him. All that was visible was the mass of men fastened upon him. It squirmed about, like some huge, many-legged spider, and swayed back and forth to the regular roll of the vessel. And still, step by step, with long intervals between, the mass ascended. Once it tottered, about to fall back, but the broken hold was regained, and it still went up.

'Who is it?' Latimer cried.

'Larsen,' I heard a muffled voice from within the mass.

Latimer reached down with his free hand. I saw a hand shoot up to clasp his. Latimer pulled, and the next couple of steps were made with a rush. Then Wolf Larsen's other hand reached up and clutched the edge of the scuttle. The mass swung clear of the ladder, the men still clinging to their escaping foe. They began to drop off, to be brushed off against the sharp edge of the scuttle, to be knocked off by the legs, which were now kicking powerfully. Leach was the last to go, falling sheer back from the top of the scuttle and striking on head and shoulders upon his sprawling mates. Larsen and the lantern disappeared, and we were left in darkness.


THERE WAS A DEAL OF CURSING and groaning as the men at the bottom of the ladder crawled to their feet.

'Somebody strike a light; my thumb's out of joint,' said one of the men, Parsons, a swarthy, saturnine man, steerer in Standish's boat, in which Harrison was puller.

'You'll find it knockin' about by the bitts,' Leach said, sitting down on the edge of the bunk in which I was concealed.

There was a fumbling and a scratching of matches, and the sea-lamp flared up, dim and smoky, and in its weird light bare-legged men moved about, nursing their bruises and caring for their hurts. Oofty-Oofty laid hold of Parsons' thumb, pulling it out stoutly and snapping it back into place. I noticed at the same time that the Kanaka's knuckles were laid open clear across and to the bone. Exposing his beautiful white teeth in a grin, he explained that the wounds had come from striking Wolf Larsen in the mouth.

'So it was you, was it, you black beggar?' belligerently demanded Kelly, an Irish-American and a longshoreman making his first trip, and puller for Kerfoot.

As he made the demand he shoved his pugnacious face close to Oofty-oofty. The Kanaka leaped backward to his bunk, to return with a leap, flourishing a long knife.

'Aw, go lay down; you make me tired,' Leach interfered. He was evidently, for all of his youth and inexperience, cock of the forecastle. 'G'wan, you Kelly. You leave Oofty alone. How in – did he know it was you in the dark?'

Kelly subsided with some muttering, and the Kanaka flashed his white teeth in a grateful smile. He was a beautiful creature, almost feminine in the pleasing lines of his figure, and there was a softness and dreaminess in his large eyes which seemed to contradict his reputation for strife and action.

'How did he get away?' said Johnson.

He was sitting on the side of his bunk, the whole pose of his figure indicating utter dejection and hopelessness. He was still breathing heavily from the exertion he had made. His shirt had been ripped entirely from him in the struggle.

'Because he is the devil, as I told you before,' was Leach's answer, and thereat he was on his feet and raging his disappointment with tears in his eyes.

'And not one of you to get a knife!' was his unceasing lament.

But the rest had a lively fear of consequences, and gave no heed to him.

'How'll he know which was which?' Kelly asked, and as he went on he looked murderously about him – 'unless one of us peaches.'

'He'll know as soon as ever he claps eyes on us,' Parsons replied. 'One look at you'd be enough.'

'Tell him the deck flopped up an' gouged yer teeth out iv yer jaw,' Louis grinned. He was the only man who was not out of his bunk, and he was jubilant in that he possessed no bruises to advertise that he had had a hand in the night's work. 'Just wait till he gets a glimpse iv yer mugs tomorrow – the gang iv ye,' he chuckled.

'We'll say we thought it was the mate,' said one. And another: 'I know what I'll say – that I heared a row, jumped out of my bunk, got a jolly good crack on the jaw for my pains, an' sailed in myself. Couldn't tell who or what it was in the dark an' just hit out.'

'An' 't was me you hit, of course,' Kelly seconded, his face brightening.

Leach and Johnson took no part in the discussion, and it was plain to see that their mates looked upon them as men for whom the worst was inevitable, who were beyond hope and already dead. Leach stood their fears and reproaches for some time. Then he broke out:

'You make me tired! A nice lot of gazabas you are! If you talked less with yer mouth an' did something with yer hands, he'd 'a' be'n done with by now. Why couldn't one of you, just one of you, get me a knife when I sung out? You make me sick! A-beefin' an' bellerin' round as though he'd kill you when he gets you! You know he won't. Can't afford to. No shippin'-masters or beachcombers over here, an' he wants yer in his business, an' he wants yer bad. Who's to pull or steer or sail ship if he loses yer? It's me an' Johnson have to face the music. Get into yer bunks, now, and shut yer faces; I want to get some sleep.'

'That's all right, all right,' Parsons spoke up. 'Mebbe he won't do for us, but mark my words, hell'll be an ice-box to this ship from now on.'

All the while I had been apprehensive. What would happen to me when these men discovered my presence? I could never fight my way out as Wolf Larsen had done. And at this moment Latimer called down the scuttle:

'Hump, the Old Man wants you.'

'He ain't down here!' said Parsons.

'Yes, he is,' I said, sliding out of the bunk and striving my hardest to keep my voice steady and bold.

The sailors looked at me in consternation. Fear was strong in their faces, and the devilishness which comes of fear.

'I'm coming!' I shouted up to Latimer.

'No, you don't!' Kelly cried, stepping between me and the ladder, his right hand shaped into a veritable strangler's clutch. 'You sneak! I'll shut yer mouth!'

'Let him go!' Leach commanded.

'Not on yer life!' was the angry retort.

Leach never changed his position on the edge of the bunk. 'Let him go, I say,' he repeated, but this time his voice was gritty and metallic.

The Irishman wavered. I made to step by him, and he stood aside. When I had gained the ladder I turned to the circle of brutal and malignant faces peering at me through the semi-darkness. A sudden and deep sympathy welled up in me.

'I have seen and heard nothing, believe me,' I said quietly.

'I tell yer, he's all right,' I could hear Leach say as I went up. 'He don't like the Old Man no more nor you or me.'

I found Wolf Larsen in the cabin, stripped and bloody, waiting for me. He greeted me with his whimsical smile.

'Come, get to work, doctor. The signs are favorable for an extensive practice this voyage. I don't know what the Ghost would have been without you, and if I could cherish such noble sentiments, I'd tell you that her master is deeply grateful.'

I knew the run of the simple medicine-chest the Ghost carried, and while I was heating water on the cabin stove and getting the things ready for dressing his wounds, he moved about, laughing and chatting, and examining his hurts with a calculating eye. I had never before seen him stripped, and the sight of his body quite took my breath away.

I must say that I was fascinated by the perfect lines of Wolf Larsen's figure, and by what I may term the terrible beauty of it. I had noted the men in the forecastle. Powerfully muscled though some of them were, Oofty-Oofty had been the only one whose lines were at all pleasing, while, in so far as they pleased, had they been what I should call feminine.

But Wolf Larsen was the man type, the masculine, and almost a god in his perfectness. As he moved about or raised his arms, the great muscles leapt and moved under the satiny skin. I have forgotten to say that the bronze ended with his face. His body, thanks to his Scandinavian stock, was fair as the fairest woman's. I remember his putting his hand up to feel of the wound on his head, and my watching the biceps move like a living thing under its white sheath.

He noticed me, and I became aware that I was staring at him.

'God made you well,' I said.

'Did he?' he answered. 'I have often thought so myself, and wondered why.'

'Purpose-' I began.

'Utility,' he interrupted. 'This body was made for use. These muscles were made to grip and tear and destroy living things that get between me and life. Feel them,' he commanded.

They were as hard as iron. And I observed, also, that his whole body had unconsciously drawn itself together, tense and alert; that muscles were softly crawling and shaping about the hips, along the back, and across the shoulders; that the arms were slightly lifted, their muscles contracting, the fingers crooking till the hands were like talons; and that even the eyes had changed expression and into them were coming watchfulness and measurement and a light none other than of battle.

'Stability, equilibrium,' he said, relaxing on the instant and sinking his body back into repose. 'Feet with which to clutch the ground, legs to stand on and to help withstand, while with arms and hands, teeth and nails, I struggle to kill and not to be killed. Purpose? Utility is the word.'

I did not argue. I had seen the mechanism of the primitive fighting beast, and I was as strongly impressed as if I had seen the engines of a battleship or Atlantic liner.

I was surprised, considering the fierce struggle in the forecastle, at the superficiality of his hurts, and I pride myself that I dressed them dexterously. With the exception of two bad wounds, the rest were merely severe bruises and lacerations. The blow which he had received before going overboard had laid his scalp open several inches. This, under his direction, I cleansed and sewed together.

'By the way, Hump, as I have remarked, you are a handy man,' Wolf Larsen began when my work was done. 'As you know, we're short a mate. Hereafter you shall stand watches, receive seventy-five dollars per month, and be addressed fore and aft as Mr. Van Weyden.'

'I – I don't understand navigation, you know,' I gasped.

'Not necessary at all.'

'I really do not care to sit in the high places,' I objected. 'I find life precarious enough in my present humble situation. I have no experience. Mediocrity, you see, has its compensations.'

He smiled as though it were all settled.

'I won't be mate on this hell-ship!' I cried defiantly.

I saw his face grow hard and the merciless glitter come into his eyes. He walked to the door of his room, saying:

'And now, Mr. Van Weyden, good night.'

'Good night, Mr. Larsen,' I answered weakly.


I CANNOT SAY THAT THE POSITION Of mate carried with it anything more joyful than that there were no more dishes to wash. I was ignorant of the simplest duties of mate, and would have fared badly indeed had not the sailors sympathized with me. I knew nothing of the minutiae of ropes and rigging, of the trimming and setting of sails; but the sailors took pains to put me to rights, Louis proving a specially good teacher, and I had little trouble with those under me.

With the hunters it was otherwise. Familiar in varying degree with the sea, they took me as a sort of joke. In truth, it was a joke to me that I, the veriest landsman, should be filling the office of mate; but to be taken as a joke by others was a different matter. I made no complaint, but Wolf Larsen demanded the must punctilious sea-etiquette in my case, – far more than poor Johansen had ever received, – and at the expense of several rows, threats, and much grumbling, he brought the hunters to time. I was 'Mr. Van Weyden' fore and aft, and only Wolf Larsen himself ever addressed me as 'Hump.'

It was amusing. Perhaps the wind would haul a few points while we were at dinner, and as I left the table he would say, 'Mr. Van Weyden, will you kindly put about on the port tack?' And I would go on deck, beckon Louis to me, and learn from him what was to be done. Then, a few minutes later, having digested his instructions and thoroughly mastered the maneuver, I would proceed to issue my orders. I remember an early instance of this kind, when Wolf Larsen appeared on the scene just as I had begun to give orders. He smoked his cigar and looked on quietly till the thing was done, and then paced aft by my side along the weather poop.

'Hump,' he said, – 'I beg pardon, Mr. Van Weyden, – I congratulate you. I think you can now fire your father's legs back into the grave to him. You've discovered your own, and learned to stand on them. A little rope-work, sail-making, and experience with storms and such things, and by the end of the voyage you could ship on any coasting schooner.'

It was during this period, between the death of Johansen and the arrival on the sealing-grounds, that I passed my pleasantest hours on the Ghost. Wolf Larsen was considerate, the sailors helped me, and I was no longer in irritating contact with Thomas Mugridge. And I make free to say, as the days went by, that I found I was taking a certain secret pride in myself. Fantastic as the situation was, – a landlubber second in command, – I was nevertheless carrying it off well; and during that brief time I was proud of myself, and I grew to love the heave and roll of the Ghost under my feet as she wallowed north and west through the tropic sea to the islet where we filled our water-casks.

But my happiness was not unalloyed. It was comparative, a period of less misery slipped in between a past of great miseries and a future of great miseries. For the Ghost, so far as the seamen were concerned, was a hell-ship of the worst description. They never had a moment's rest or peace. Wolf Larsen treasured against them the attempt on his life and the drubbing he had received in the forecastle, and morning, noon, and night, and all night as well, he devoted himself to making life unlivable for them.

He knew well the psychology of the little thing, and it was the little things by which he kept the crew worked up to the verge of madness. I have seen Harrison called from his bunk to put properly away a misplaced paint-brush, and the two watches below haled from their tired sleep to accompany him and see him do it. A little thing, truly, but when multiplied by the thousand ingenious devices of such a mind, the mental state of the men in the forecastle may be slightly comprehended.

Of course much grumbling went on, and little outbursts were continually occurring. Blows were struck, and there were always two or three men nursing injuries at the hands of the human beast who was their master. Concerted action was impossible in face of the heavy arsenal of weapons carried in the steerage and cabin. Leach and Johnson were the two particular victims of Wolf Larsen's diabolic temper, and the look of profound melancholy which had settled on Johnson's face and in his eyes made my heart bleed.

With Leach it was different. There was too much of the fighting beast in him. He seemed possessed by an insatiable fury which gave no time for grief. His lips had become distorted into a permanent snarl, which, at mere sight of Wolf Larsen, broke out in sound, horrible and menacing, and, I do believe, unconsciously. I have seen him follow Wolf Larsen about with his eyes, like an animal its keeper, the while the animal-like snarl sounded deep in his throat and vibrated forth between his teeth.

I remember once, on deck, in bright day, touching him on the shoulder as preliminary to giving an order. His back was toward me, and at the first feel of my hand he leaped upright in the air and away from me, snarling and turning his head as he leaped. He had for the moment mistaken me for the man he hated.

Both he and Johnson would have killed Wolf Larsen at the slightest opportunity, but the opportunity never came. Wolf Larsen was too wise for that, and, besides, they had no adequate weapons. With their fists alone they had no chance whatever. Time and again he fought it out with Leach, who fought back always, like a wildcat, tooth and nail and fist, until stretched exhausted or unconscious on the deck. And he was never averse to another encounter. All the devil that was in him challenged the devil in Wolf Larsen. They had but to appear on deck at the same time, when they would be at it, cursing, snarling, striking; and I have seen Leach fling himself upon Wolf Larsen without warning or provocation. Once he threw his heavy sheath-knife, missing Wolf Larsen's throat by an inch. Another time he dropped a steel marlinespike from the main-crosstree. It was a difficult cast to make on a rolling ship, but the sharp point of the spike, whistling seventy-five feet through the air, barely missed Wolf Larsen's head as he emerged from the cabin companionway, and drove its length two inches and over into the solid deck-planking. Still another time he stole into the steerage, possessed himself of a loaded shotgun, and was making a rush for the deck with it when caught by Kerfoot and disarmed.

I often wondered why Wolf Larsen did not kill him and make an end of it. But he only laughed and seemed to enjoy it. There seemed a certain spice about it, such as men must feel who take delight in making pets of ferocious animals.

'It gives a thrill to life,' he explained to me, 'when life is carried in one's hand. Man is a natural gambler, and life is the biggest stake he can lay. The greater the odds, the greater the thrill. Why should I deny myself the joy of exciting Leach's soul to fever-pitch? For that matter, I do him a kindness. The greatness of sensation is mutual. He is living more royally than any man for'ard, though he does not know it. For he has what they have not – purpose, something to do and be done, an all-absorbing end to strive to attain, the desire to kill me, the hope that he may kill me. Really, Hump, he is living deep and high. I doubt that he has ever lived so swiftly and keenly before, and I honestly envy him, sometimes, when I see him raging at the summit of passion and sensibility.'

'Ah, but it is cowardly, cowardly,' I cried. 'You have all the advantage.'

'Of the two of us, you and I, who is the greater coward?' he asked seriously. 'If the situation is unpleasing, you compromise with your conscience when you make yourself a party to it. If you were really great, really true to yourself, you would join forces with Leach and Johnson. But you are afraid, you are afraid. You want to live. The life that is in you cries out that it must live, no matter what the cost; so you live ignominiously, untrue to the best you dream of, sinning against your whole pitiful little code, and, if there were a hell, heading your soul straight for it. Bah! I play the braver part. I do no sin, for I am true to the promptings of the life that is in me. I am sincere with my soul at least, and that is what you are not.'

There was a sting in what he said. Perhaps, after all, I was playing a cowardly part. And the more I thought about it the more it appeared that my duty to myself lay in doing what he had advised, lay in joining forces with Johnson and Leach and working for his death. Right here, I think, entered the austere conscience of my Puritan ancestry, impelling me toward lurid deeds and sanctioning even murder as right conduct. I dwelt upon the idea. It would be a most moral act to rid the world of such a monster. Humanity would be better and happier for it, life fairer and sweeter.

I pondered it long, lying sleepless in my bunk and reviewing in endless procession the facts of the situation. I talked with Johnson and Leach during the night watches when Wolf Larsen was below. But both men had lost hope, Johnson because of temperamental despondency, Leach because he had beaten himself out in the vain struggle and was exhausted. But he caught my hand in a passionate grip one night, saying:

'I think ye're square, Mr. Van Weyden. But stay where you are an' keep yer mouth shut. Say nothin', but saw wood. We're dead men, I know it; but, all the same, you might be able to do us a favor sometime when we need it damn bad.'

It was only next day, when Wainwright Island loomed to windward, close abeam, that Wolf Larsen opened his mouth in prophecy. He had attacked Johnson, been attacked by Leach, and had just finished whipping the pair of them.

'Leach,' he said, 'you know I'm going to kill you sometime or other, don't you?'

A snarl was the answer.

'And as for you, Johnson, you'll get so tired of life before I'm through with you that you'll fling yourself over the side. See if you don't.'

'That's suggestion,' he added, in an aside to me. 'I'll bet you a month's pay he acts upon it.'

I had cherished a hope that his victims would find an opportunity to escape while filling our water-barrels, but Wolf Larsen had selected his spot well. The Ghost lay half a mile beyond the surf-line of a lonely beach. Here debouched a deep gorge, with precipitous, volcanic walls which no man could scale. And here, under his direct supervision, – for he went ashore himself, – Leach and Johnson filled the small casks and rolled them down to the beach. They had no chance to make a break for liberty in one of the boats.

Harrison and Kelly, however, made such an attempt. They composed the crew of one of the boats, and their task was to play between the schooner and the shore, carrying a single cask each trip. Just before dinner, starting for the beach with an empty barrel, they altered their course and bore away to the left to round the promontory which jutted into the sea between them and liberty. Beyond its foaming base lay the pretty villages of the Japanese colonists and smiling valleys which penetrated deep into the interior. Once in the fastnesses they promised, and the two men could defy Wolf Larsen.

I had observed Henderson and Smoke loitering about the deck all morning, and I now learned why they were there. Procuring their rifles, they opened fire in a leisurely manner upon the deserters. It was a most cold-blooded exhibition of marksmanship. At first their bullets zipped harmlessly along the surface of the water on each side the boat; but, as the men continued to pull lustily, they struck closer and closer.

'Now watch me take Kelly's right oar,' Smoke said, drawing a more careful aim.

I was looking through the glasses, and I saw the oar-blade shattered as he shot. Henderson duplicated his feat, selecting Harrison's right oar. The boat slued around. The two remaining oars were quickly broken. The men tried to row with the spinters, and had them shot out of their hands. Kelly ripped up a bottom-board and began paddling, but dropped it with a cry of pain as its splinters drove into his hands. Then they gave up, letting the boat drift till a second boat, sent from the shore by Wolf Larsen, took them in tow and brought them aboard.

Late that afternoon we hove up anchor and got away. Nothing was before us but the three or four months' hunting on the sealing-grounds. The outlook was black indeed, and I went about my work with a heavy heart. An almost funereal gloom seemed to have descended upon the Ghost. Wolf Larsen had taken to his bunk with one of his strange splitting headaches. Harrison stood listlessly at the wheel, half supporting himself by it, as though wearied by the weight of his flesh. The rest of the men were morose and silent. I came upon Kelly crouching in the lee of the forecastle scuttle, his head on his knees, his arms about his head, in an attitude of unutterable despondency.

Johnson I found lying full-length on the forecastle head, staring at the troubled churn of the forefoot, and I remembered with horror the suggestion Wolf Larsen had made. It seemed likely to bear fruit. I tried to break in on the man's morbid thoughts by calling him away; but he smiled sadly at me, and refused to obey.

Leach approached me as I returned aft.

'I want to ask a favor, Mr. Van Weyden,' he said. 'If it's yer luck to ever make 'Frisco once more, will you hunt up Matt McCarthy? He's my old man. He lives on the Hill, back of the Mayfair bakery, runnin' a cobbler's shop that everybody knows, an' you'll have no trouble. Tell him I lived to be sorry for the trouble I brought him an' the things I done, an' – an' just tell him "God bless him," for me.'

I nodded my head, but said:

'We'll all win back to San Francisco, Leach, and you'll be with me when I go to see Matt McCarthy.'

'I'd like to believe you,' he answered, shaking my hand, 'but I can't. Wolf Larsen'll do for me, I know it, and all I can hope is he'll do it quick.'

And as he left me I was aware of the same desire at my heart. Since it was to be done, let it be done with despatch. The general gloom had gathered me into its folds. The worst appeared inevitable; and as I paced the deck hour after hour, I found myself afflicted with Wolf Larsen's repulsive ideas. What was it all about? Where was the grandeur of life that it should permit such wanton destruction of human souls? It was a cheap and sordid thing, after all, this life, and the sooner over the better. Over and done with! Over and done with! I, too, leaned upon the rail and gazed longingly into the sea, with the certitude that sooner or later I should be sinking down, down, through the cool green depths of its oblivion.


STRANGE TO SAY, IN SPITE of the general foreboding, nothing of especial moment happened on the Ghost. We ran on to the north and west till we raised the coast of Japan and picked up with the great seal herd. Coming from no man knew where in the illimitable Pacific, it was traveling north on its annual migration to the rookeries of Bering Sea. And north we traveled with it, ravaging and destroying, flinging the naked carcasses to the shark, and salting down the skins, so that they might later adorn the fair shoulders of the women of the cities.

It was wanton slaughter, and all for woman's sake. No man ate of the seal-meat or the oil. After a good day's killing I have seen our decks covered with hides and bodies, slippery with fat and blood, the scuppers running red; masts, ropes, and rails splattered high with the sanguinary color; and the men, like butchers plying their trade, naked and red of arm and hand, hard at work with ripping – and flensing-knives, removing the skins from the pretty sea-creatures they had killed.

It was my task to tally the pelts as they came aboard from the boats, to oversee the skinning, and afterward the cleansing of the decks and bringing things shipshape again. It was not pleasant work, – my soul and my stomach revolted at it, – and yet, in a way, this handling and directing of many men was good for me. It developed what little executive ability I possessed, and I was aware of a toughening or hardening which I was undergoing and which could not be anything but wholesome for 'Sissy' Van Weyden.

One thing I was beginning to feel, and that was that I could never again be quite the same man I had been. While my hope and faith in human life still survived Wolf Larsen's destructive criticism, he had nevertheless been a cause of change in minor matters. He had opened up for me the world of the real, of which I had known virtually nothing, and from which I had always shrunk. I had learned to look more closely at life as it is lived, to recognize that there were such things as facts in the world; to emerge from the realm of mind and idea, and to place certain values on the concrete and objective phases of existence.

I saw more of Wolf Larsen than ever when we had gained the grounds; for when the weather was fair and we were in the midst of the herd, all hands were away in the boats, and left on board were only he and I, and Thomas Mugridge, who did not count. But there was no play about it. The six boats, spreading out fanwise from the schooner until the first weather boat and the last lee boat were anywhere from ten to twenty miles apart, cruised along a straight course over the sea till nightfall or bad weather drove them in. It was our duty to sail the Ghost well to leeward of the last lee boat, so that all the boats would have fair wind to run for us in case of squalls for threatening weather.

It is no slight matter for two men, particularly when a stiff wind has sprung up, to handle a vessel like the Ghost, steering, keeping lookout for the boats, and setting or taking in sail, so it devolved upon me to learn, and learn quickly. Steering I picked up easily, but running aloft to the crosstrees, and swinging my whole, weight by my arms when I left the ratlines and climbed still higher, was more difficult. This, too, I learned, and quickly, for I felt somehow a wild desire to vindicate myself in Wolf Larsen's eyes, to prove my right to live in ways other than of the mind. Nay, the time came when I took joy in the run to the masthead, and in the clinging on by my legs at that precarious height while I swept the sea with the glasses in search of the boats.

I remember one beautiful day, when the boats left early and the reports of the hunters' guns grew dim and distant and died away as they scattered far and wide over the sea. There was just the faintest wind from the westward; but it breathed its last by the time we managed to get to leeward of the last lee boat. One by one – I was at the masthead and saw – the six boats disappeared over the bulge of the earth as they followed the seal into the west. We lay, scarcely rolling on the placid sea, unable to follow. Wolf Larsen was apprehensive. The barometer was down, and the sky to the east did not please him. He studied it with unceasing vigilance.

'If she comes out of there,' he said, 'hard and snappy, putting us to windward of the boats, it's likely there'll be empty bunks in steerage and f'c's'le.'

By eleven o'clock the sea had became glass. By midday, though we were well up in the northerly latitudes, the heat was sickening. There was no freshness in the air. It was sultry and oppressive, reminding me of what the old Californians term 'earthquake weather.' There was something ominous about it, and in intangible ways one was made to feel that the worst was about to come. Slowly the whole eastern sky filled with clouds that overtowered us like some black sierra of the infernal regions. So clearly could one see canon, gorge, and precipice, and the shadows that lay therein, that one looked unconsciously for the white surf-line and bellowing caverns where the sea charges forever on the land. And still we rocked gently, and there was no wind.

'It's no squall,' Wolf Larsen said. 'Old Mother Nature's going to get up on her hind legs and howl for all that's in her, and it'll keep up jumping, Hump, to pull through with half our boats. You'd better run up and loosen the topsails.'

'But if it is going to howl, and there are only two of us?' I asked, a note of protest in my voice.

'Why, we've got to make the best of the first of it and run down to our boats before our canvas is ripped out of us. After that I don't give a rap what happens. The sticks'll stand it, and you and I will have to, though we've plenty cut out for us.'

Still the calm continued. We ate dinner, a hurried and anxious meal for me, with eighteen men abroad on the sea and beyond the bulge of the earth, and with that heaven-rolling mountain range of clouds moving slowly down upon us. Wolf Larsen did not seem affected, however, though I noticed, when we returned to the deck, a slight twitching of the nostrils, a perceptible quickness of movement. His face was stern, the lines of it had grown hard, and yet in his eyes – blue, clear blue this day – there was a strange brilliancy, a bright, scintillating light. It struck me that he was joyous in a ferocious sort of way; that he was glad there was an impending struggle; that he was thrilled and upborne with knowledge that one of the great moments of living, when the tide of life surges up in flood, was upon him.

Once, and unwitting that he did so or that I saw, he laughed aloud mockingly and defiantly at the advancing storm. I see him yet, standing there like a pygmy out of the 'Arabian Nights' before the huge front of some malignant jinnee. He was daring destiny, and he was unafraid.

He walked to the galley.

'Cooky,' I heard him say, 'by the time you've finished pots and pans you'll be wanted on deck. Stand ready for a call.'

'Hump,' he said, becoming cognizant of the fascinated gaze I bent upon him, 'this beats whiskey, and is where your Omar misses. I think he only half lived, after all.'

The western half of the sky had by now grown murky. The sun had dimmed and faded out of sight. It was two in the afternoon, and a ghostly twilight, shot through by wandering purplish lights, had descended upon us, and Wolf Larsen's face glowed in the purplish light. We lay in the midst of an unearthly quiet, while all about us were signs and omens of oncoming sound and movement. The sultry heat had become unendurable. The sweat was standing on my forehead, and I could feel it trickling down my nose. I felt as though I should faint, and reached out to the rail for support.

And then, just then, the faintest possible whisper of air passed by. It was from the east, and like a whisper it came and went. The drooping canvas was not stirred, and yet my face had felt the air and been cooled.

'Cooky,' Wolf Larsen called in a low voice (Thomas Mugridge turned a pitiable, scared face), 'let go that fore-boom – tackle and pass it across, and when she's willing let go the sheet and come in snug with the tackle. And if you make a mess of it, it will be the last you ever make. Understand?'

'Mr. Van Weyden, stand by to pass the head-sails over. Then jump for the topsails and spread them quick as God'll let you – the quicker you do it, the easier you'll find it. As for Cooky, if he isn't lively, bat him between the eyes.'

I was aware of the compliment and pleased in that no threat had accompanied my instructions. We were lying head to northwest, and it was his intention to jibe over with the first puff.

'We'll have the breeze on our quarter,' he explained to me. 'By the last guns the boats were bearing away slightly to the south'ard.'

He turned and walked aft to the wheel. I went forward and took my station at the jibs. Another whisper of wind, and another, passed by. The canvas flapped lazily.

'Thank Gawd she's not comin' all of a bunch, Mr. Van Weyden!' was the Cockney's fervent ejaculation.

And I was indeed thankful, for I had by this time learned enough to know, with all our canvas spread, what disaster in such event awaited us. The whispers of wind became puffs, the sails filled, the Ghost moved. Wolf Larsen put the wheel hard up to port, and we began to pay off. The wind was now dead astern, muttering and puffing stronger and stronger, and my head-sails were pounding lustily. I did not see what went on elsewhere, though I felt the sudden surge and heel of the schooner as the wind-pressures changed to the jibing of the fore-and main-sails. My hands were full with the flying jib, jib, and staysail, and by the time this part of my task was accomplished the Ghost was leaping into the southwest, the wind on her quarter and all her sheets to starboard. Without pausing for breath, though my heart was beating like a trip-hammer from my exertions, I sprang to the topsails, and before the wind had become too strong we had them fairly set and were coiling down. Then I went aft for orders.

Wolf Larsen nodded approval and relinquished the wheel to me. The wind strengthening steadily and the sea rising for an hour I steered, each moment becoming more difficult. I had not the experience to steer at the gait we were going on a quartering course.

'Now take a run up with the glasses and raise some of the boats. We've made at least ten knots, and we're going twelve or thirteen now. The old girl knows how to walk. Might as well get some of that head-sail off of her,' Larsen added, and turned to Mugridge: 'Cooky, run down that flying jib and staysail, and make the downhauls good and fast.'

I contented myself with the fore-crosstrees, some seventy feet above the deck. As I searched the vacant stretch of water before me, I comprehended thoroughly the need for haste if we were to recover any of our men. Indeed, as I gazed at the heavy sea through which we were running, I doubted that there was a boat afloat. It did not seem possible that so frail craft could survive such stress of wind and water.

I could not feel the full force of the wind, for we were running with it, but from my lofty perch I looked down as though outside the Ghost and apart from her, and saw the shape of her outlined sharply against the foaming sea as she tore along instinct with life. Sometimes she would lift and send across some great wave, burying her starboard rail from view and covering her deck to the hatches with the boiling ocean. At such moments, starting from a windward roll, I would go flying through the air with dizzying swiftness, as though I clung to the end of a huge, inverted pendulum, the arc of which, between the greater rolls, must have been seventy feet or more. Once the terror this giddy sweep overpowered me, and for a while I clung on, hand and foot, weak and trembling, unable to search the sea for the missing boats or to behold aught of the sea but that which roared beneath and strove to overwhelm the Ghost.

But the thought of the men in the midst of it steadied me, and in my quest for them I forgot myself. For an hour I saw nothing but the naked, desolate sea. And then, where a vagrant shaft of sunlight struck the ocean and turned its surface to wrathful silver, I caught a small black speck thrust skyward for an instant and swallowed up. I waited patiently. Again the tiny point of black projected itself through the wrathful blaze, a couple of points off our port bow. I did not attempt to shout, but communicated the news to Wolf Larsen by waving my arm. He changed the course, and I signaled affirmation when the speck showed dead ahead.

It grew larger, and so swiftly that for the first time I fully appreciated the speed of our flight. Wolf Larsen motioned for me to come down, and when I stood beside him at the wheel he gave me instructions for heaving to.

'Expect all hell to break loose,' he cautioned me, 'but don't mind it. Yours is to do your own work and to have Cooky stand by the fore-sheet.'

I managed to make my way forward, but there was little choice of sides, for the weather rail seemed buried as often as the lee. Having instructed Thomas Mugridge as to what he was to do, I clambered into the fore rigging a few feet. The boat was now very close, and I could make out plainly that it was lying head to wind and sea and dragging on its mast and sail, which had been thrown overboard and made to serve as a sea-anchor. The three men were bailing. Each rolling mountin whelmed them from view, and I would wait with sickening anxiety, fearing that they would never appear again. Then, and with black suddenness, the boat would shoot clear through the foaming crest, bow pointed to the sky and the whole length of her bottom showing, wet and dark, till she seemed on end. There would be a fleeting glimpse of the three men flinging water in frantic haste, when she would topple over and fall into the yawning valley, bow down and showing her full inside length to the stern upreared almost directly above the bow. Each time that she reappeared was a recurrent miracle.

The Ghost suddenly changed her course, keeping away, and it came to me with a shock that Wolf Larsen was giving up the rescue as impossible. Then I realized that he was preparing to heave to, and dropped to the deck to be in readiness. We were now dead before the wind, the boat far away and abreast of us. I felt an abrupt easing of the schooner, a loss for the moment of all strain and pressure coupled with a swift acceleration of speed. She was rushing around on her heel into the wind.

As she arrived at right-angles to the sea, the full force of the wind, from which we had hitherto run away, caught us. I was unfortunately and ignorantly facing it. It stood up against me like a wall, filling my lungs with air which I could not expel. And as I choked and strangled, and as the Ghost wallowed for an instant, broadside on and rolling straight over and far into the wind, I beheld a huge sea rise far above my head. I turned aside, caught my breath, and looked again. The wave overtopped the Ghost, and I gazed sheer up and into it. A shaft of sunlight smote the over-curl, and I caught a glimpse of translucent, rushing green, backed by a milky smother of foam.

Then it descended, pandemonium broke loose, everything happened at once. I was struck a crushing, stunning blow, nowhere in particular and yet everywhere. My hold had been broken loose, I was under water, and the thought passed through my mind that this was the terrible thing of which I had heard, the being swept in the trough of the sea. My body struck and pounded as it was dashed helplessly along and turned over and over, and when I could hold my breath no longer I breathed the stinging salt water into my lungs. But through it all I clung to the one idea – I must get the jib backed over to windward. I had no fear of death. I had no doubt but that I should come through somehow. And as this idea of fulfilling Wolf Larsen's order persisted in my dazed consciousness, I seemed to see him standing at the wheel in the midst of the wild welter, pitting his will against the will of the storm and defying it.

I brought up violently against what I took to be the rail, breathed, and breathed the sweet air again. I tried to rise, but struck my head, and was knocked back on hands and knees. By some freak of the waters I had been swept clear under the forecastle head and into the eyes. As I scrambled out on all fours, I passed over the body of Thomas Mugridge, who lay in a groaning heap. There was no time to investigate. I must get the jib backed over.

When I emerged on deck it seemed that the end of everything had come. On all sides there was a rending and crashing of wood and steel and canvas. The Ghost was being wrenched and torn to fragments. The foresail and foretopsail, emptied of the wind by the maneuver, and with no one to bring in the sheet in time, were thundering into ribbons, the heavy boom thrashing and splintering from rail to rail. The air was thick with flying wreckage, detached ropes and stays were hissing and coiling like snakes, and down through it all crashed the gaff of the foresail.

The spar could not have missed me by many inches, while it spurred me to action. Perhaps the situation was not hopeless. I remembered Wolf Larsen's caution. He had expected 'all hell to break loose,' and here it was. And where was he? I caught sight of him toiling at the mainsheet, heaving it in and flat with his tremendous muscles, the stern of the schooner lifted high in the air, and his body outlined against a white surge of sea sweeping past. All this and more – a whole world of chaos and wreck – in possibly fifteen seconds I had seen and heard and grasped.

I did not stop to see what had become of the small boat, but sprang to the jibsheet. The jib itself was beginning to slap, partly filling and emptying with sharp reports; but with a turn of the sheet, and the application of my whole strength each time it slapped, I slowly backed it. This I know: I did my best. Either the downhauls had been carelessly made fast by Mugridge, or else the pins carried away, for, while I pulled till I burst open the ends of all my fingers, the flying jib and staysail filled and fluttered with the wind, split their cloths apart, and thundered into nothingness.

Still I pulled, holding what I gained each time with a double turn until the next slap gave me more. Then the sheet gave with greater ease, and Wolf Larsen was beside me, heaving in alone while I was busied taking up the slack.

'Make fast,' he shouted, 'and come on!'

As I followed him, I noted that, in spite of wrack and ruin, a rough order obtained. The Ghost was hove to. She was still in working order, and she was still working. Though the rest of her sails were gone, the jib, backed to windward, and the mainsail, hauled down flat, were themselves holding, and holding her bow to the furious sea as well.

I looked for the boat, and, while Wolf Larsen cleared the boat-tackles, saw it lift to leeward on a big sea and not a score of feet away. And, so nicely had he made his calculation, we drifted fairly down upon it, so that nothing remained to do but hook the tackles to each end and hoist it aboard. But this was not done so easily as it is written.

In the bow was Kerfoot, Oofty-Oofty in the stern, and Kelly amidships. As we drifted closer, the boat would rise on a wave while we sank in the trough, till, almost straight above me, I could see the heads of the three men craned overside and looking down. Then, the next moment, we would lift and soar upward while they sank far down beneath us. It seemed incredible that the next surge should not crush the Ghost down upon the tiny eggshell.

But, at the right moment, I passed the tackle to the Kanaka, while Wolf Larsen did the same thing forward to Kerfoot. Both tackles were hooked in a trice, and the three men, deftly timing the roll, made a simultaneous leap aboard the schooner. As the Ghost rolled her side out of water, the boat was lifted snugly against her, and before the return roll came we had heaved it in over the side and turned it bottom up on the deck. I noticed blood spouting from Kerfoot's left hand. In some way the third finger had been crushed to a pulp. But he gave no sign of pain, and with his single right hand helped us lash the boat in its place.

'Stand by to let that jib over, you Oofty,' Wolf Larsen commanded, the very second we had finished with the boat. 'Kelly, come aft and slack off the mainsheet. You, Kerfoot, go for'ard and see what's become of Cooky. Mr. Van Weyden, run aloft again, and cut away any stray stuff in your way.'

And having commanded, he went aft, with his peculiar tigerish leaps, to the wheel. While I toiled up the fore-shrouds the Ghost slowly paid off. This time, as we went into the trough of the sea and were swept, there were no sails to carry away. And halfway to the crosstrees, and flattened against the rigging by the full force of the wind, so that it would have been impossible for me to have fallen, with the Ghost almost on her beam-ends, and the masts parallel with the water, I looked, not down, but at right angles from the perpendicular, to the deck of the Ghost. But I saw not the deck, but where the deck should have been, for it was buried beneath a wild tumbling of water. Out of this water I could see the two masts rising, and that was all. The Ghost, for the moment, was buried beneath the sea. As she squared off more and more, escaping from the side pressure, she righted herself and broke her deck, like a whale's back, through the ocean surface.

Then we raced, and wildly, across the wild sea, the while I hung like a fly in the crosstrees and searched for the other boats. In half an hour I sighted the second one, swamped and bottom up, to which were desperately clinging Jock Horner, fat Louis, and Johnson. This time I remained aloft, and Wolf Larsen succeeded in heaving to without being swept. As before, we drifted down upon the boat. Tackles were made fast and lines flung to the men, who scrambled aboard like monkeys. The boat itself was crushed and splintered against the schooner's side as it came inboard; but the wreck was securely lashed, for it could be patched and made whole again.

Once more the Ghost bore away before the storm, this time so submerging herself that for some seconds I thought she would never reappear. Even the wheel, quite a deal higher than the waist, was covered and swept again and again. At such moments I felt strangely alone with God, and watching the chaos of his wrath. And then the wheel would reappear, and Wolf Larsen's broad shoulders, his hands gripping the spokes and holding the schooner to the course of his will, himself an earth-god, dominating the storm, flinging its descending waters from him, and riding it to his own ends. And oh, the marvel of it, the marvel of it, that tiny men should live and breathe and work, and drive so frail a contrivance of wood and cloth through so tremendous an elemental strife!

As before, the Ghost swung out of the trough, lifting her deck again out of the sea, and dashed before the howling blast. It was now half-past five, and half an hour later, when the last of the day lost itself in a dim and furious twilight, I sighted a third boat. It was bottom up, and there was no sign of its crew. Wolf Larsen repeated his maneuver, holding off and then rounding up to windward and drifting down upon it. But this time he missed by forty feet, the boat passing astern.

'No. 4 boat!' Oofty-Oofty cried, his keen eyes reading its number in the one second when it lifted clear of the foam and upside down.

It was Henderson's boat, and with him had been lost Holyoak and Williams, another of the deep-water crowd. Lost they indubitably were; but the boat remained, and Wolf Larsen made one more reckless effort to recover it. I had come down to the deck, and I saw Horner and Kerfoot vainly protest against the attempt.

'By God, I'll not be robbed of my boat by any storm that ever blew out of hell!' he shouted, and though we four stood with our heads together that we might hear, his voice seemed faint and far, as though removed from us an immense distance.

'Mr. Van Weyden,' he cried, and I heard through the tumult as one might hear a whisper, 'stand by that jib with   Johnson and Oofty! The rest of you tail aft to the main-sheet! Lively now, or I'll sail you all into kingdom come! Understand?'

And when he put the wheel hard over and the Ghost's bow swung off, there was nothing for the hunters to do but obey and make the best of a risky chance. How great the risk I realized when I was once more buried beneath the pounding seas and clinging for life to the pin-rail at the foot of the foremast. My fingers were torn loose, and I was swept across to the side and over the side into the sea. I could not swim, but before I could sink I was swept back again. A strong hand gripped me, and when the Ghost finally emerged I found that I owed my life to Johnson. I saw him looking anxiously about him, and noted that Kelly, who had come forward at the last moment, was missing.

This time, having missed the boat, and not being in the same position as in the previous instances, Wolf Larsen was compelled to resort to a different maneuver. Running off before the wind with everything to starboard, he came about and returned close-hauled on the port tack.

'Grand!' Johnson shouted in my ear, as we successfully came through the attendant deluge; and I knew he referred, not to Wolf Larsen's seamanship, but to the performance of the Ghost herself.

It was now so dark that there was no sign of the boat; but Wolf Larsen held back through the frightful turmoil as if guided by unerring instinct. This time, though we were continually half-buried, there was no trough in which to be swept, and we drifted squarely down upon the upturned boat, badly smashing it as it was heaved inboard.

Two hours of terrible work followed, in which all hands of us – two hunters, three sailors, Wolf Larsen, and I – reefed, first one and then the other, the jib and mainsail. Hove to under this short canvas, our decks were comparatively free of water, while the Ghost bobbed and ducked among the combers like a cork.

I had burst open the ends of my fingers at the very first, and during the reefing I had worked with tears of pain running down my cheeks. And when all was done, I gave up like a woman and rolled. upon the deck in the agony of exhaustion.

In the meantime, Thomas Mugridge, like a drowned rat, was being dragged out from under the forecastle head, where he had cravenly ensconced himself. I saw him pulled aft to the cabin, and noted with a shock of surprise that the galley had disappeared. A clean space of deck showed where it had stood.

In the cabin I found all hands assembled, sailors as well, and while coffee was being cooked over the small stove we drank whiskey and crunched hardtack. Never in my life had food been so welcome, and never had hot coffee tasted so good. So violently did the Ghost pitch and toss and tumble that it was impossible for even the sailors to move about without holding on, and several times, after a cry of 'Now she takes it!' we were heaped upon the wall of the port cabin as though it had been the deck.

'To – with a lookout,' I heard Wolf Larsen say when we had eaten and drunk our fill. 'There's nothing can be done on deck. If anything's going to run us down, we couldn't get out of its way. Turn in, all hands, and get some sleep.'

The sailors slipped forward, setting the side-lights as they went, while the two hunters remained to sleep in the cabin, it not being deemed advisable to open the slide to the steerage companionway. Wolf Larsen and I, between us, cut off Kerfoot's crushed finger and sewed up the stump. Mugridge, who, during all the time he had been compelled to cook and serve coffee and keep the fire going, had complained of internal pains, now swore that he had a broken rib or two. On examination we found that he had three. But his case was deferred to next day, principally for the reason that I did not know anything about broken ribs, and would first have to read it up.

'I don't think it was worth it,' I said to Wolf Larsen, 'a broken boat for Kelly's life.'

'But Kelly didn't amount to much,' was the reply. 'Good night.'

After all that had passed, suffering intolerable anguish in my finger-ends, and with three boats missing, to say nothing of the wild capers the Ghost was cutting, I would have thought it impossible to sleep. But my eyes must have closed the instant my head touched the pillow, and in utter exhaustion I slept throughout the night, the while the Ghost, lonely and undirected, fought her way through the storm.


THE NEXT DAY, WHILE THE STORM was blowing itself out, Wolf Larsen and I 'crammed' anatomy and surgery and set Mugridge's ribs. Then, when the storm broke, Wolf Larsen cruised back and forth over that portion of the ocean where we had encountered it, and somewhat more to the westward, while the boats were being repaired and new sails made and bent. Also, a new galley was being constructed out of odds and ends of lumber from the hold. Sealing-schooner after sealing-schooner we sighted and boarded, most of which were in search of lost boats, and most of which were carrying boats and crews that they had picked up and that did not belong to them. For the thick of the fleet had been to the westward of us, and the boats, scattered far and wide, had headed in mad flight for the nearest refuge.

Two of our boats, with men all safe, we took off the Cisco, and, to Wolf Larsen's huge delight and my own grief, he culled Smoke, with Nilson and Leach, from the San Diego. So that, at the end of five days, we found ourselves short but four men, Henderson, Holyoak, Williams, and Kelly, and were once more hunting on the flanks of the herd.

As we followed north, we began to encounter the dreaded sea-fogs. Day after day the boats were lowered and swallowed up almost before they touched the water, while we on board pumped the horn at regular intervals, and every fifteen minutes fired the bomb-gun. Boats were continually being lost and found, it being the custom for a boat to hunt, on lay, with whatever schooner picked it up, until such time as it was recovered by its own schooner. But Wolf Larsen, as was to be expected, being a boat short, took possession of the first stray one and compelled its men to hunt with the Ghost, not permitting them to return to their own schooner when we sighted it. I remember how he forced the hunter and his two men below, a rifle at their breasts, when their captain passed by at biscuit-toss and hailed us for information.

Thomas Mugridge, so strangely and pertinaciously clinging to life, was soon limping about again and performing his double duties of cook and cabin-boy. Johnson and Leach were bullied and beaten as much as ever, and they looked for their lives to end with the end of the hunting season; while the rest of the crew lived the lives of dogs and were worked like dogs by their pitiless master. As for Wolf Larsen and me, we got along fairly well, though I could not quite rid myself of the idea that right conduct for me lay in killing him. He fascinated me immeasurably, and I feared him immeasurably; and yet I could not imagine him lying prone in death. There was an endurance, as of perpetual youth, about him, which rose up and forbade the picture. I could see him only as living always and dominating always, fighting and destroying, himself surviving.

One diversion of his, when we were in the midst of the herd and the sea was too rough to lower the boats, was to lower with two boat-pullers and a steerer and go out himself. He was a good shot, too, and brought many a skin aboard under what the hunters termed 'impossible hunting conditions.' It seemed the breath of his nostrils, this carrying his life in his hands and struggling for it against tremendous odds.

I was learning more and more seamanship, and one clear day, a thing we rarely encountered now, I had the satisfaction of running and handling the Ghost and picking up the boats myself. Wolf Larsen had been smitten with one of his headaches, and I stood at the wheel from morning until evening, sailing across the ocean after the last lee boat, and heaving to and picking it and the other five up without command or suggestion from him.

Gales we encountered now and again, for it was a raw and stormy region, and, in the middle of June, a typhoon most memorable to me, and most important because of the changes wrought through it upon my future. We must have been caught nearly at the center of this circular storm, and Wolf Larsen ran out of it and to the southward, first under a double-reefed jib, and finally under bare poles. Never had I imagined so great a sea. The seas previously encountered were as ripples compared with these, which ran a half-mile from crest to crest and which upreared, I am confident, above our masthead. So great was it that Wolf Larsen himself did not dare heave to, though he was being driven far to the southward and out of the seal herd.

We must have been well in the path of the transpacific steamships when the typhoon moderated, and here, to the surprise of the hunters, we found ourselves in the midst of seals – a second herd, or sort of rear-guard, they declared, and a most unusual thing. But it was 'Boats over!' the boom, boom of guns, and pitiful slaughter through the long day.

It was at this time that I was approached by Leach. I had just finished tallying the skins of the last boat aboard when he came to my side, in the darkness, and said in a low tone:

'Can you tell me, Mr. Van Weyden, how far we are off the coast, and what the bearings of Yokohama are?'

My heart leaped with gladness, for I knew what he had in mind, and I gave him the bearings – west-northwest and five hundred miles away.

'Thank you, sir,' was all he said as he slipped back into the darkness.

Next morning No. 3 boat and Johnson and Leach were missing. The waterbreakers and grub-boxes from all the other boats were likewise missing, as were the beds and sea-bags of the two men. Wolf Larsen was furious. He set sail and bore away into the west-northwest, two hunters constantly at the mastheads, and sweeping the sea with glasses, himself pacing the deck like an angry lion. He knew too well my sympathy for the runaways to send me aloft as lookout.

The wind was fair but fitful, and it was like looking for a needle in a haystack to raise that tiny boat out of the blue immensity. But he put the Ghost through her best paces, so as to get between the deserters and the land. This accomplished, he cruised back and forth across what he knew must be their course.

On the morning of the third day, shortly after eight bells, a cry that the boat was sighted came down from Smoke at the masthead. All hands lined the rail. A snappy breeze was blowing from the west, with the promise of more wind behind it; and there, to leeward, in the troubled silver of the rising sun, appeared and disappeared a black speck.

We squared away and ran for it. My heart was as lead. I felt myself turning sick in anticipation; and as I looked at the gleam of triumph in Wolf Larsen's eyes, his form swam before me, and I felt almost irresistibly impelled to fling myself upon him. So unnerved was I by the thought of impending violence to Leach and Johnson that my reason must have left me. I know that I slipped down into the steerage, in a daze, and that I was just beginning the ascent to the deck, a loaded shotgun in my hands, when I heard the startled cry:

'There's five men in that boat!'

I supported myself in the companion-way, weak and trembling, while the observation was being verified by the remarks of the rest of the men. Then my knees gave from under me, and I sank down, myself again, but overcome by shock at knowledge of what I had so nearly done. Also, I was very thankful as I put the gun away and slipped back on deck.

No one had remarked my absence. The boat was near enough for us to make out that it was larger than any sealing-boat and built on different lines. As we drew closer, the sail was taken in and the mast unstepped. Oars were shipped, and its occupants waited for us to heave to and take them aboard.

Smoke, who had descended to the deck and was now standing by my side, began to chuckle in a significant way. I looked at him inquiringly.

'Talk of a mess!' he giggled. 'It's a pretty one we've got now.'

'What's wrong?' I demanded.

Again he chuckled. 'Don't you see there, in the stern – sheets, on the bottom? May I never shoot a seal again if that ain't a woman!'

I looked closely, but was not sure until exclamation broke out on all sides. The boat contained four men, and its fifth occupant was certainly a woman.

We were agog with excitement, all except Wolf Larsen, who was too evidently disappointed in that it was not his own boat with the two victims of his malice.

We ran down the flying jib, hauled the jib-sheets to windward and the mainsheet flat, and came up into the wind. The oars struck the water, and with a few strokes the boat was alongside. I now caught my first fair glimpse of the woman. She was wrapped in a long ulster, for the morning was raw, and I could see nothing but her face and a mass of light-brown hair escaping from under the seaman's cap on her head. The eyes were large and brown and lustrous, the mouth sweet and sensitive, and the face itself a delicate oval, though sun and exposure to briny wind had burned the face scarlet.

She seemed to me like a being from another world. I was aware of a hungry outreaching for her, as of a starving man for bread. But then I had not seen a woman for a very long time. I know that I was lost in a great wonder, almost a stupor, – this, then, was a woman? – so that I forgot myself and my mate's duties, and took no part in helping the newcomers aboard. For when one of the sailors lifted her into Wolf Larsen's down-stretched arms, she looked up into our curious faces and smiled amusedly and sweetly, as only a woman can smile, and as I had seen no one smile for so long that I had forgotten such smiles existed.

'Mr. Van Weyden!'

Wolf Larsen's voice brought me sharply back to myself.

'Will you take the lady below and see to her comfort? Make up that spare port cabin. Put Cooky to work on it. And see what you can do for that face. It's burned badly.'

He turned brusquely away from us and began to question the new men. The boat was cast adrift, though one of them called it a 'bloody shame,' with Yokohama so near.

I found myself strangely afraid of this woman I was escorting aft. Also, I was awkward. It seemed to me that I was realizing for the first time what a delicate, fragile creature a woman is, and as I caught her arm to help her down the companion-stairs, I was startled by its smallness and softness. Indeed, she was a slender, delicate woman, as women go, but to me she was so ethereally slender and delicate that I was quite prepared for her arm to crumble in my grasp. All this in frankness, to show my first impression, after long deprivation, of women in general and of Maud Brewster in particular.

'No need to go to any great trouble for me,' she protested, when I had seated her in Wolf Larsen's armchair, which I had dragged hastily from his cabin. 'The men were looking for land at any moment this morning, and the vessel should be in by night, don't you think so?'

Her simple faith in the immediate future took me aback. How could I explain to her the situation, the strange man who stalked the sea like Destiny, all that it had taken me months to learn? But I answered honestly:

'If it were any other captain except ours, I should say you would be ashore in Yokohama tomorrow. But our captain is a strange man, and I beg of you to be prepared for anything – understand? – for anything.'

'I – I confess I hardly do understand,' she hesitated, a perturbed but not frightened expression in her eyes. 'Or is it a misconception of mine that shipwrecked people are always shown every consideration? This is such a little thing, you know, we are so close to land.'

'Candidly, I do not know,' I strove to reassure her. 'I wished merely to prepare you for the worst, if the worst is to come. This man, this captain, is a brute, a demon, and one can never tell what will be his next fantastic act.'

I was growing excited, but she interrupted me with an 'Oh, I see,' and her voice sounded weary. To think was patently an effort. She was clearly on the verge of physical collapse.

She asked no further questions, and I vouchsafed no remarks, devoting myself to Wolf Larsen's command, which was to make her comfortable. I bustled about in quite housewifely fashion, procuring soothing lotions for her sunburn, raiding Wolf Larsen's private stores for a bottle of port I knew to be there, and directing Thomas Mugridge in the preparation of the spare state-room.

The wind was freshening rapidly, the Ghost heeling over more and more, and by the time the state-room was ready she was dashing through the water at a lively clip. I had quite forgotten the existence of Leach and Johnson, when suddenly, like a thunder-clap, 'Boat ho!' came down the open companionway. It was Smoke's unmistakable voice, crying from the masthead. I shot a glance at the woman, but she was leaning back in the armchair, her eyes closed, unutterably tired. I doubted that she had heard, and I resolved to prevent her seeing the brutality I knew would follow the capture of the deserters. She was tired. Very good. She should sleep.

There were swift commands on deck, a stamping of feet and a slapping of reefpoints, as the Ghost shot into the wind and about on the other tack. As she filled away and heeled, the armchair began to slide across the cabin floor, and I sprang for it just in time to prevent the rescued woman from being spilled out.

Her eyes were too heavy to suggest more than a hint of the sleepy surprise that perplexed her as she looked up at me, and she half stumbled, half tottered as I led her to her cabin. Mugridge grinned insinuatingly in my face as I shoved him out and ordered him back to his galley work, and he won his revenge by spreading glowing reports among the hunters as to what an excellent 'Lydy's-myde' I was proving myself to be.

She leaned heavily against me, and I do believe that she had fallen asleep again between the armchair and the state-room. This I discovered when she nearly fell into the bunk during a sudden lurch of the schooner. She aroused, smiled drowsily, and was off to sleep again; and asleep I left her, under a heavy pair of sailor's blankets, her head resting on a pillow I had appropriated from Wolf Larsen's bunk.


I CAME ON DECK TO FIND THE GHOST heading up close on the port tack and cutting in to windward of a familiar sprit-sail close-hauled on the same tack ahead of us. All hands were on deck, for they knew that something was to happen when Leach and Johnson were dragged aboard.

It was four bells. Louis came aft to relieve the wheel. There was a dampness in the air, and I noticed he had on his oilskins.

'What are we going to have?' I asked him.

'A healthy young slip of a gale from the breath of it, sir,' he answered, 'with a splatter of rain just to wet our gills an' no more.'

'Too bad we sighted them,' I said, as the Ghost's bow was flung off a point by a large sea, and the boat leaped for a moment past the jibs and into our line of vision.

Louis turned a spoke of the wheel and temporized.

'They'd never of made the land, sir, I'm thinkin'.'

'Think not?' I queried.

'No, sir. Did you feel that?' A puff had caught the schooner, and he was forced to put the wheel up rapidly to keep her out of the wind. ''T is no eggshell'll float on this sea an hour come. An' it's a stroke of luck for them we're here to pick 'em up.'

Wolf Larsen strode aft from amidships, where he had been talking with the rescued men. The cat-like springiness in his tread was a little more pronounced than usual, and his eyes were bright and snappy.

'Three oilers and a fourth engineer,' was his greeting. 'But we'll make sailors out of them, or boat-pullers, at any rate. Now, what of the lady?'

I knew not why, but I was aware of a twinge or pang, like the cut of a knife, when he mentioned her. I thought it a certain silly fastidiousness on my part, but it persisted in spite of me, and I merely shrugged my shoulders in answer.

Wolf Larsen pursed his lips in a long quizzical whistle.

'What's her name, then?' he demanded.

'I don't know,' I replied. 'She is asleep. She was very tired. In fact, I am waiting to hear the news from you. What vessel was it?'

'Mail-steamer,' he answered shortly. 'The City of Tokio, from 'Frisco, bound for Yokohama. Disabled in that typhoon. Old tub. Opened up top and bottom like a sieve. They were adrift four days. And you don't know who or what she is, eh – maid, wife, or widow? Well, well.'

He shook his head in a bantering way and regarded me with laughing eyes.

'Are you – ' I began. It was on the verge of my tongue to ask if he were going to take the castaways in to Yokohama.

'Am I what?' he asked.

'What do you intend doing with Leach and Johnson?'

He shook his head.

'Really, Hump, I don't know. You see, with these additions I've about all the crew I want.'

'And they've about all the escaping they want,' I said. 'Why not give them a change of treatment? Take them aboard and deal gently with them. Whatever they have done, they have been hounded into doing.'

'By me?'

'By you,' I answered steadily. 'And I give you warning, Wolf Larsen, that I may forget the love of my own life in the desire to kill you if you go too far in maltreating those poor wretches.'

'Bravo!' he cried. 'You do me proud, Hump! You've found your legs with a vengeance. You're quite an individual. You were unfortunate in having your life cast in easy places, but you're developing, and I like you the better for it.'

His voice and expression changed. His face was serious. 'Do you believe in promises?' he asked. 'Are they sacred things?'

'Of course,' I answered.

'Then here's a compact,' he went on, consummate actor that he was. 'If I promise not to lay hands upon Leach and Johnson, will you promise, in turn, not to attempt to kill me? Oh, not that I'm afraid of you, not that I'm afraid of you,' he hastened to add.

I could hardly believe my ears. What was coming over the man?

'Is it a go?' he asked impatiently.

'A go,' I answered.

His hand went out to mine, and as I shook it heartily I could have sworn I saw the mocking devil shine up for a moment in his eyes.

We strolled across the poop to the lee side. The boat was close at hand now and in desperate plight. Johnson was steering, Leach bailing. We overhauled them about two feet to their one. Wolf Larsen motioned Louis to keep off slightly, and we dashed abreast of the boat not a score of feet to windward.

It was at this moment that Leach and Johnson looked up into the faces of their shipmates who lined the rail amidships. There was no greeting. They were as dead men in their comrades' eyes, and between them was the gulf that parts the living and the dead.

The next instant they were opposite the poop, where stood Wolf Larsen and I. We were falling in the trough, and they were rising on the surge. Johnson looked at me, and I could see that his face was worn and haggard. I waved my hand to him, and he answered the greeting, but with a wave that was hopeless and despairing. It was as if he were saying farewell. I did not see into the eyes of Leach, for he was looking at Wolf Larsen, the old and implacable snarl of hatred as strong as ever on his face.

Then they were gone astern. The sprit-sail filled with the wind suddenly, careening the frail, open craft till it seemed it would surely capsize.

Wolf Larsen barked a short laugh in my ear and strode away to the weather side of the poop. I expected him to give orders for the Ghost to heave to, but she kept on her course and he made no sign. Louis tood imperturbably at the wheel, but I noticed the grouped sailors forward turning troubled faces in our direction. Still the Ghost tore along till the boat dwindled to a speck, when Wolf Larsen's voice rang out in command, and we went about on the starboard tack.

Back we held, two miles and more to windward of the struggling cockleshell, when the flying jib was run down and the schooner hove to. In all that wild waste there was no refuge for Leach and Johnson save on the Ghost, and they resolutely began the windward beat. At the end of an hour and a half they were nearly alongside, standing past our stern on the last leg out, aiming to fetch us on the next leg back.

'So you've changed your mind?' I heard Wolf Larsen mutter, half to himself, half to them, as though they could hear. 'You want to come aboard, eh? Well, then, just keep a-coming. Hard up with that helm!' he commanded Oofty-Oofty, the Kanaka, who had in the meantime relieved Louis at the wheel.

Command followed command. As the schooner paid off, the fore-and main-sheets were slacked away for fair wind. And before the wind we were, and leaping, when Johnson, easing his sheet at imminent peril, cut across our wake a hundred feet away. Again Wolf Larsen laughed, at the same time beckoning them with his arm to follow. It was evidently his intention to play with them – a lesson, I took it, in lieu of a beating, though a dangerous lesson, for the frail craft stood in momentary danger of being overwhelmed.

''T is the fear of death at the hearts of them,' Louis muttered in my ear as I passed forward to see to taking in the flying jib and staysail.

'Oh, he'll heave to in a little while and pick them up,' I answered cheerfully.

Louis looked at me shrewdly. 'Think so?' he asked.

'Surely,' I answered. 'Don't you?'

'I think nothing but of my own skin, these days,' was his answer. 'An' 't is with wonder I'm filled as to the workin' out of things. A pretty mess that 'Frisco whisky got me into, an' a prettier mess that woman's got you into aft there. Ah, it's myself that knows ye for a blitherin' fool.'

'What do you mean?' I demanded; for, having sped his shaft, he was turning away.

'What do I mean?' he cried. 'An' it's you that asks me! 'T is not what I mean, but what the Wolf'll mean. The Wolf, I said, the Wolf!'

'If trouble comes, will you stand by?' asked impulsively, for he had voiced my own fear.

'Stand by? 'T is old fat Louis I stand by, an' trouble enough it'll be. We're at the beginnin' of things, I'm tellin' ye, the bare beginnin' of things.'

'I had not thought you so great a coward,' I sneered.

He favored me with a contemptuous stare.

'If I raised never a hand for that poor fool,' – pointing astern to the tiny sail, – 'd' ye think I'm hungerin' for a broken head for a woman I never laid me eyes upon before this day?'

I turned scornfully away and went aft.

'Better get in those topsails, Mr. Van Weyden,' Wolf Larsen said, as I came on the poop.

I felt relief, at least as far as the two men were concerned. I had scarcely opened my mouth to issue the necessary commands, when eager men were springing to halyards and downhauls, and others were racing aloft. This eagerness on their part was noted by Wolf Larsen with a grim smile.

Still we increased our lead, and when the boat had dropped astern several miles we hove to and waited. All eyes watched it coming, even Wolf Larsen's; but he was the only unperturbed man aboard. Louis, gazing fixedly, betrayed a trouble in his face he was not quite able to hide.

The boat drew closer and closer, hurling along through the seething green like a thing alive, lifting and sending and uptossing across the huge-backed breakers, or disappearing behind them only to rush into sight again and shoot skyward. It seemed impossible that it could continue to live, yet with each dizzying sweep it did achieve the impossible. A rain-squall drove past, and out of the flying wet the boat emerged, almost upon us.

'Hard up, there!' Wolf Larsen shouted, himself springing to the wheel and whirling it over.

Again the Ghost sprang away and raced before the wind, and for two hours Johnson and Leach pursued us. We hove to and ran away, hove to and ran away; and ever astern the struggling patch of sail tossed skyward and fell into the rushing valleys. It was a quarter of a mile away when a thick squall of rain veiled it from view. It never emerged. The wind blew the air clear again, but no patch of sail broke the troubled surface. I thought I saw, for an instant, the boat's bottom show black in a breaking crest. At the best, that was all. For Johnson and Leach the travail of existence had ceased.

The men remained grouped amidships. No one had gone below, and no one was speaking. Nor were any looks being exchanged. Each man seemed stunned – deeply contemplative, as it were, and, not quite sure, trying to realize just what had taken place. Wolf Larsen gave them little time for thought. He at once put the Ghost upon her course – a course which meant the seal-herd and not Yokohama harbor. But the men were no longer eager as they pulled and hauled, and I heard curses among them which left their lips smothered and as heavy and lifeless as were they. Not so was it with the hunters. Smoke the irrepressible related a story, and they descended into the steerage bellowing with laughter.

As I passed to leeward of the galley on my way aft, I was approached by the engineer we had rescued. His face was white, his lips were trembling.

'Good God! sir, what kind of a craft is this?' he cried.

'You have eyes; you have seen,' I answered almost brutally, what of the pain and fear at my own heart.

'Your promise?' I said to Wolf Larsen.

'I was not thinking of taking them aboard when I made that promise,' he answered. 'And, anyway, you'll agree I've not laid my hands upon them. Far from it, far from it,' he laughed a moment later.

I made no reply. I was incapable of speaking, my mind was too confused. I must have time to think, I knew. This woman, sleeping even now in the spare cabin, was a responsibility which I must consider, and the only rational thought that flickered through my mind was that I must do nothing hastily if I were to be any help to her at all.


THE REMAINDER OF THE DAY passed uneventfully. The young slip of a gale, having wetted our gills, proceeded to moderate. The fourth engineer and the three oilers, after a warm interview with Wolf Larsen, were furnished with outfits from the slop-chest, assigned places under the hunters in the various boats and watches on the vessel, and bundled forward into the forecastle. They went protestingly, but their voices were not loud. They were awed by what they had already seen of Wolf Larsen's character, while the tale of woe they speedily heard in the forecastle took the last bit of rebellion out of them.

Miss Brewster – we had learned her name from the engineer – slept on and on. At supper I requested the hunters to lower their voices, so she was not disturbed; and it was not till next morning that she made her appearance. It had been my intention to have her meals served apart, but Wolf Larsen put down his foot. Who was she that she should be too good for cabin table and cabin society? had been his demand.

But her coming to the table had something amusing in it. The hunters fell as silent as clams. Jock Horner and Smoke alone were unabashed, stealing stealthy glances at her now and again, and even taking part in the conversation. The other four men glued their eyes on their plates and chewed steadily and with thoughtful precision, their ears moving and wabbling, in time with their jaws, like the ears of so many animals.

Wolf Larsen had little to say at first, doing no more than reply when he was addressed. Not that he was abashed. Far from it. This woman was a new type to him, a different breed from any he had ever known, and he was curious. He studied her, his eyes rarely leaving her face, unless to follow the movements of her hands or shoulders. I studied her myself, and though it was I who maintained the conversation, I know that I was a bit shy, not quite self-possessed. His was the perfect poise, the supreme confidence in self which nothing could shake; and he was no more timid of a woman than he was of storm and battle.

'And when shall we arrive at Yokohama?' she asked, turning to him and looking him square in the eyes.

There it was, the question flat. The jaws stopped working, the ears ceased wabbling, and though eyes remained on plates, each man listened greedily for the answer.

'In four months, possibly three, if the season closes early,' Wolf Larsen said. She caught her breath and stammered:

'I – I thought – I was given to understand that Yokohama was only a day's sail away. It – ' Here she paused and looked about the table at the circle of unsympathetic faces staring hard at the plates. 'It is not right,' she concluded.

'That is a question you must settle with Mr. Van Weyden there,' he replied, bowing to me with a mischievous twinkle. 'Mr. Van Weyden is what you may call an authority on such things as rights. Now I, who am only a sailor, would look upon the situation somewhat differently. It may possibly be your misfortune that you have to remain with us, but it is certainly our good fortune.'

He regarded her smilingly. Her eyes fell before his gaze, but she lifted them again, and defiantly, to mine. I read the unspoken question there: Was it right? But I had decided that the part I was to play must be a neutral one, so I did not answer.

'What do you think?' she demanded.

'It is unfortunate,' I said, 'especially if you have any engagements falling due in the course of the next several months. But, since you say that you were voyaging to Japan for your health, I can assure you that it will improve no better anywhere than aboard the Ghost.'

I saw her eyes flash with indignation, and this time it was I who dropped mine, while I felt my face flushing under her gaze. It was cowardly, but what else could I do?

'Mr. Van Weyden speaks with the voice of authority.' Wolf Larsen laughed.

I nodded my head and she, having recovered herself, waited expectantly.

'Not that he is much to speak of now,' Wolf Larsen went on; 'but he has improved wonderfully. You should have seen him when he came on board. A more scrawny, pitiful specimen of humanity one could hardly conceive. Isn't that so, Kerfoot?'

Kerfoot, thus directly addressed, was startled into dropping his knife on the floor, though he managed to grunt affirmation.

'Developed himself by peeling potatoes and washing dishes. Eh, Kerfoot?'

Again that worthy grunted.

'Look at him now. True, he is not what you would term muscular, but still he has muscles, which is more than he had when he came aboard. Also, he has legs to stand on. You would not think so to look at him, but he was quite unable to stand alone at first.'

The hunters were snickering, but she looked at me with a sympathy in her eyes which more than compensated for Wolf Larsen's nastiness. In truth, it had been so long since I had received sympathy that I was softened, and I became then, and gladly, her willing slave. But I was angry with Wolf Larsen. He was challenging my manhood with his slurs, challenging the very legs he claimed to be instrumental in getting for me.

'I may have learned to stand on my own legs,' I retorted. 'But I have yet to stamp upon others with them.'

He looked at me insolently. 'Your education is only half completed, then,' he said dryly, and turned to her. 'We are very hospitable upon the Ghost. Mr. Van Weyden has discovered that. We do everything to make our guests feel at home, eh, Mr. Van Weyden?'

'Even to the peeling of potatoes and the washing of dishes,' I answered, 'to say nothing of wringing their necks, out of very fellowship.'

'I beg of you not to receive false impressions of us from Mr. Van Weyden,' he interposed with mock anxiety. 'You will observe, Miss Brewster, that he carries a dirk in his belt, a – ahem – a most unusual thing for a ship's officer to do. While really very estimable, Mr. Van Weyden is sometimes – how shall I say? – er – quarrelsome, and harsh measures are necessary. He is quite reasonable and fair in his calm moments, and as he is calm now, he will not deny that only yesterday he threatened my life.'

I was well-nigh choking, and my eyes were certainly fiery. He drew attention to me.

'Look at him now. He can scarcely control himself in your presence. He is not accustomed to the presence of ladies, anyway. I shall have to arm myself before I dare go on deck with him.'

He shook his head sadly, murmuring, 'Too bad, too bad,' while the hunters burst into guffaws of laughter.

The deep sea-voices of these men, rumbling and bellowing in the confined space, produced a wild effect. The whole setting was wild, and for the first time, regarding this strange woman and realizing how incongruous she was in it, I was aware of how much a part of it I was myself. I knew these men and their mental processes, was one of them myself, living the seal-hunting life, eating the seal-hunting fare, thinking largely the seal-hunting thoughts. There was no strangeness to it, to the rough clothes, the coarse faces, the wild laughter, and the lurching cabin walls and swaying sea-lamps.

As I buttered a piece of bread and my eyes chanced to rest upon my hand. The knuckles were skinned and inflamed clear across, the fingers swollen, the nails rimmed with black. I felt the mattress-like growth of beard on my neck, knew that the sleeve of my coat was ripped, that a button was missing from the throat of the blue shirt I wore. The dirk mentioned by Wolf Larsen rested in its sheath on my hip. It was very natural that it should be there – how natural I had not imagined until now, when I looked upon it with her eyes and knew how strange it and all that went with it must appear to her.

But she divined the mockery in Wolf Larsen's words, and again favored me with a sympathetic glance. But there was a look of bewilderment also in her eyes. That it was mockery made the situation more puzzling to her.

'I may be taken off by some passing vessel, perhaps,' she suggested.

'There will be no passing vessels, except other sealing-schooners,' Wolf Larsen made answer.

'I have no clothes, nothing,' she objected. 'You hardly realize, sir, that I am not a man, or that I am unaccustomed to the vagrant, careless life which you and your men seem to lead.'

'The sooner you get accustomed to it the better,' he said. 'I'll furnish you with cloth, needles, and thread,' he added. 'I hope it will not be too dreadful a hardship for you to make yourself a dress or two.'

She made a wry pucker with her mouth, as though to advertise her ignorance of dressmaking. That she was frightened and bewildered, and that she was bravely striving to hide it, was quite plain to me.

'I suppose you're like Mr. Van Weyden there, accustomed to having things done for you. Well, I think doing a few things for yourself will hardly dislocate any joints. By the way, what do you for a living?'

She regarded him with amazement unconcealed.

'I mean no offense, believe me. People eat, therefore they must procure the wherewithal. These men here shoot seals in order to live; for the same reason I sail this schooner; and Mr. Van Weyden, for the present at any rate, earns his salty grub by assisting me. Now what do you do?'

She shrugged her shoulders.

'Do you feed yourself, or does some one else feed you?'

'I'm afraid some one else has fed me most of my life,' she laughed, trying bravely to enter into the spirit of his quizzing, though I could see a terror dawning and growing in her eyes as she watched Wolf Larsen.

'And I suppose some one else makes your bed for you?'

'I have made beds,' she replied.

'Very often?'

She shook her head with mock ruefulness.

'Do you know what they do to poor men in the States who, like you, do not work for their living?'

'I am very ignorant,' she pleaded. 'What do they do to the poor men who are like me?'

'They send them to jail. The crime of not earning a living, in their case, is called vagrancy. If I were Mr. Van Weyden, who harps eternally on questions of right and wrong, I'd ask, By what right do you live when you do nothing to deserve living?'

'But as you are not Mr. Van Weyden, I don't have to answer, do I?'

She beamed upon him through her terror-filled eyes, and the pathos of it cut me to the heart. I felt that I must in some way break in and lead the conversation into other channels.

'Have you ever earned a dollar by your own labor?' he demanded, certain of her answer, a triumphant vindictiveness in his voice.

'Yes, I have,' she answered slowly, and I could have laughed aloud at his crestfallen visage. 'I remember my father giving me a dollar once, when I was a little girl, for remaining absolutely quiet for five minutes.'

He smiled indulgently.

'But that was long ago,' she continued. 'And you would scarcely demand a little girl of nine to earn her own living. At present, however,' she said, after another slight pause, 'I earn about eighteen hundred dollars a year.'

With one accord all eyes left the plates and settled on her. A woman who earned eighteen hundred dollars a year was worth looking at. Wolf Larsen was undisguised in his admiration.

'Salary or piece-work?' he asked.

'Piece-work,' she answered promptly.

'Eighteen hundred,' he calculated. 'That's a hundred and fifty dollars a month. Well, Miss Brewster, there is nothing small about the Ghost. Consider yourself on salary during the time you remain with us.'

She made no acknowledgment. She was too unused as yet to the whims of the man to accept them with equanimity.

'I forgot to inquire,' he went on suavely, 'as to the nature of your occupation. What commodities do you turn out? What tools and materials do you require?'

'Paper and ink,' she laughed. 'And, oh! also a typewriter.'

'You are Maud Brewster,' I said slowly and with certainty, almost as though I were charging her with a crime.

Her eyes lifted curiously to mine.

'How do you know?'

'Aren't you?' I demanded.

She acknowledged her identity with a nod. It was Wolf Larsen's turn to be puzzled. The name and its magic signified nothing to him. I was proud that it did mean something to me, and for the first time in a weary while I was convincingly conscious of a superiority over him.

'I remember writing a review of a thin little volume-' I had begun carelessly, when she interrupted me.

'You!' she cried. 'You are-'

She was now staring at me in wide-eyed wonder.

I nodded my identity, in turn.

'Humphrey Van Weyden,' she concluded; then added, with a sigh of relief and unaware that she had glanced that relief at Wolf Larsen, 'I am so glad.'

'I remember the review,' she went on hastily, becoming aware of the awkwardness of her remark, 'that too, too flattering review.'

'Not at all,' I denied valiantly. 'You impeach my sober judgment and make my canons of little worth, Besides, all my brother critics were with me.'

'You are very kind, I am sure, she murmured; and the very conventionality of her tones and words, with the host of associations it aroused of the old life on the other side of the world, gave me a quick thrill – rich with rememberance but stinging sharp with homesickness.

'And you are Maud Brewster,' I said solemnly, gazing across at her.

'And you are Humphrey Van Weyden,' she said, gazing back at me with equal solemnity and awe. 'How unusual! I don't understand. We surely are not to expect some wildly romantic sea-story from your sober pen.'

'No, I am not gathering material, I assure you,' was my answer. 'I have neither aptitude nor inclination for fiction.'

'Tell me, why have you always buried yourself in California?' she next asked. 'It has not been kind of you. We of the East have seen so very little of you – too little indeed of the Dean of American Letters the Second.'

I bowed to, and disclaimed, the compliment.

'I nearly met you, once, in Philadelphia, some Browning affair or other – you were to lecture, you know. My train was four hours late.'

And then we quite forgot where we were, leaving Wolf Larsen stranded and silent in the midst of our flood of gossip. The hunters left the table and went on deck, and still we talked. Wolf Larsen alone remained. Suddenly I became aware of him, leaning back from the table and listening curiously to our alien speech of a world he did not know.

I broke short off in the middle of a sentence. The present, with all its perils and anxieties, rushed upon me with stunning force. It smote Miss Brewster likewise, a vague and nameless terror rushing into her eyes as she regarded Wolf Larsen.

He rose to his feet and laughed awkwardly. The sound of it was metallic.

'Oh, don't mind me,' he said, with a self-depreciatory wave of his hand.

'I don't count. Go on, go on, I pray you.'

But the gates of speech were closed, and we, too, rose from the table and laughed awkwardly.


THE CHAGRIN WOLF LARSEN felt from being ignored by Maud Brewster and me in the conversation at table had to express itself in some fashion, and it fell to Thomas Mugridge to be the victim. He had not mended his ways or his shirt, though the latter he contended he had changed. The garment itself did not bear out the assertion, nor did the accumulations of grease on stove and pot and pan attest a general cleanliness.

'I've given you warning, Cooky,' Wolf Larsen said, 'and now you've got to take your medicine.'

Mugridge's face turned white under its sooty veneer, and when Wolf Larsen called for a rope and a couple of men, the miserable Cockney fled wildly out of the galley and dodged and ducked about the deck, with the grinning crew in pursuit. Few things could have been more to their liking than to give him a tow over the side, for to the forecastle he had sent messages and concoctions of the vilest order. Conditions favored the undertaking. The Ghost was slipping through the water at no more than three miles an hour, and the sea was fairly calm. But Mugridge had little stomach for a dip in it. Possibly he had seen men towed before. Besides, the water was frightfully cold, and his was anything but a rugged constitution.

As usual, the watches below and the hunters turned out for what promised sport. Mugridge seemed to be in rabid fear of the water, and he exhibited a nimbleness and speed we did not dream he possessed. Cornered in the right angle of the poop and galley, he sprang like a cat to the top of the cabin and ran aft. But his pursuers forestalling him, he doubled back across the cabin, passed over the galley, and gained the deck by means of the steerage scuttle. Straight forward he raced, the boat-puller Harrison at his heels and gaining on him. But Mugridge, leaping suddenly, caught the jib-boom-lift. It happened in an instant. Holding his weight by his arms and in mid-air doubling his body at the hips, he let fly with both feet. The oncoming Harrison caught the kick squarely in the pit of the stomach, groaned involuntarily, and doubled up and backward to the deck.

Hand-clapping and roars of laughter from the hunters greeted the exploit while Mugridge, eluding half of his pursuers at the foremast, ran aft and through the remainder like a runner on the football field. Straight aft he held to the poop, and along the poop to the stern. So great was his speed that as he curved past the corner of the cabin he slipped and fell. Nilson was standing at the wheel, and the Cockney's hurling body struck his legs. Both went down together, but Mugridge alone arose. By some freak of pressures, his frail body had snapped the strong man's leg like a pipe-stem.

Parsons took the wheel, and the pursuit continued. Round and round the decks they went, Mugridge sick with fear, the sailors hallooing and shouting directions to one another, and the hunters bellowing encouragement and laughter. Mugridge went down on the fore-hatch, under three men; but he emerged from the mass like an eel, bleeding at the mouth, the offending shirt ripped into tatters, and sprang for the main-rigging. Up he went, clear up, beyond the ratlines, to the very masthead.

Half a dozen sailors swarmed to the crosstrees after him, where they clustered and waited while two of their number, Oofty-Oofty and Black (who was Latimer's boat-steerer), continued up the thin steel stays, lifting their bodies higher and higher by means of their arms.

It was a perilous undertaking, for, at a height of over a hundred feet from the deck, holding on by their hands, they were not in the best of positions to protect themselves from Mugridge's feet. And Mugridge kicked savagely, till the Kanaka, hanging on with one hand, seized the Cockney's foot with the other. Black duplicated the performance a moment later with the other foot. Then the three writhed together in a swaying tangle, struggling, sliding, and falling into the arms of their mates on the crosstrees.

The aerial battle was over, and Thomas Mugridge, whining and gibbering, was brought down to the deck. Wolf Larsen rove a bowline in a piece of rope and slipped it under his shoulders. Then he was carried aft and flung into the sea. Forty – fifty – sixty feet of line ran out, when Wolf Larsen cried, 'Belay!' Oofty-Oofty took a turn on a bitt, the rope tautened, and the Ghost, lunging onward, jerked the cook to the surface.

It was a pitiful spectacle. Though he could not drown, and was nine-lived in addition, he was suffering all the agonies of half-drowning. The Ghost was going very slowly, and when her stern lifted on a wave and she slipped forward, she pulled the wretch to the surface and gave him a moment in which to breathe; but after each lift the stern fell, and while the bow lazily climbed the next wave the line slackened and he sank beneath.

I had forgotten the existence of Maud Brewster, and I remembered her with a start as she stepped lightly beside me. It was her first time on deck since she had come aboard. A dead silence greeted her appearance.

'What is the cause of the merriment?' she asked.

'Ask Captain Larsen,' I answered composedly and coldly, though inwardly my blood was boiling at the thought that she should be witness to such brutality.

She took my advice and was turning to put it into execution when her eyes lighted on Oofty-Oofty, immediately before her, his body instinct with alertness and grace as he held the turn of the rope.

'Are you fishing?' she asked him.

He made no reply. His eyes, fixed intently on the sea astern, suddenly flashed.

'Shark, ho, sir!' he cried.

'Heave in! Lively! All hands tail on!' Wolf Larsen shouted, springing himself to the rope in advance of the quickest.

Mugridge had heard the Kanaka's warning cry and was screaming madly. I could see a black fin cutting the water and making for him with greater swiftness than he was being pulled aboard. It was an even toss whether the shark or we would get him, and it was a matter of moments. When Mugridge was directly beneath us, the stern descended the slope of a passing wave, thus giving the advantage to the shark. The fin disappeared. The belly flashed white in a swift upward rush. Almost equally swift, but not quite, was Wolf Larsen. He threw his strength into one tremendous jerk. The Cockney's body left the water, so did part of the shark's. He drew up his legs, and the man-eater seemed no more than barely to touch one foot, sinking back into the water with a splash. But at the moment of contact Thomas Mugridge cried out. Then he came in like a fresh-caught fish on a line, clearing the rail generously and striking the deck in a heap, on hands and knees, and rolling over. The right foot was missing, amputated neatly at the ankle!

I looked instantly at Maud Brewster. Her face was white, her eyes dilated with horror. She was gazing, not at Thomas Mugridge, but at Wolf Larsen. And he was aware of it, for he said, with one of his short laughs:

'Man-play, Miss Brewster. Somewhat rougher, I warrant, than that you have been used to, but still man-play. The shark was not in the reckoning. It-'

But at this juncture, Mugridge, who had lifted his head and ascertained the extent of his loss, floundered over on the deck and buried his teeth in Wolf Larsen's leg. Wolf Larsen stooped, coolly, to the Cockney, and pressed with thumb and finger at the rear of the jaws and below the ears. The jaws opened with reluctance, and Wolf Larsen stepped free.

'As I was saying,' went on, as though nothing unwonted had happened, 'the shark was not in the reckoning. It was – ahem – shall we say Providence?'

She gave no sign that she had heard, though the expression of her eyes changed to one of inexpressible loathing as she started to turn away. She no more than started, for she swayed and tottered, and reached her hand weakly out to mine. I caught her in time to save her from falling, and helped her to a seat on the cabin. I thought she must faint outright, but she controlled herself.

'Will you get a tourniquet, Mr. Van Weyden?' Wolf Larsen called to me.

I hesitated. Her lips moved, and though they formed no words, she commanded me with her eyes, plainly as speech, to go to the help of the unfortunate man. 'Please,' she managed to whisper, and I could but obey.

By now I had developed such skill at surgery that Wolf Larsen, beyond several words of advice, left me to my task with a couple of sailors for assistants. For his task he elected a vengeance on the shark.

A heavy swivel-hook, baited with fat salt pork, was dropped overside; and by the time I had compressed the severed veins and arteries the sailors were singing and heaving in the offending monster. I did not see it myself, but my assistants, first one and then the other, deserted me for a few moments to run amidships and look at what was going on. The shark, a sixteen-footer, was hoisted up against the main-rigging. Its jaws were pried apart to their greatest extension, and a stout stake, sharpened at both ends, was so inserted that when the pries were removed the spread jaws were fixed upon it. This accomplished, the hook was cut out. The shark dropped back into the sea, helpless, yet with its full strength, doomed to lingering starvation – a living death less meet for it than for the man who devised the punishment.


I KNEW WHAT IT WAS AS SHE came toward me. For ten minutes I had watched her talking earnestly with the engineer, and now, with a sign for silence, I drew her out of earshot of the helmsman. Her face was white and set; her large eyes – larger than usual, what of the purpose in them – looked penetratingly into mine. I felt rather timid and apprehensive, for she had come to search Humphrey Van Weyden's soul, and Humphrey Van Weyden had nothing of which to be particularly proud since his advent on the Ghost.

We walked to the break of the poop, where she turned and faced me. I glanced around to see that no one was within hearing distance.

'What is it?' I asked gently; but the expression of grim determination on her face did not relax.

'I can readily understand,' she began, 'that this morning's affair was largely an accident; but I have been talking with Mr. Haskins. He tells me that the day we were rescued, even while I was in the cabin, two men were drowned, deliberately drowned – murdered.'

There was a query in her voice, and she faced me accusingly, as though I were guilty of the deed, or at least a party to it.

'The information is quite correct,' I answered. 'The two men were murdered.'

'And you permitted it!' she cried.

'I was unable to prevent it, is a better way of phrasing it,' I replied, still gently.

'But you tried to prevent it?' There was an emphasis on the 'tried,' and a pleading little note in her voice. 'Oh, but you didn't!' she hurried on, divining my answer. 'But why didn't you?'

I shrugged my shoulders.

'You must remember, Miss Brewster, that you are a new inhabitant of this little world, and that you do not yet understand the laws which operate within it. You bring with you certain fine conceptions of humanity, manhood, conduct, and such things; but here you will find them misconceptions. I have found it so,' I added, with an involuntary sigh.

She shook her head incredulously.

'What would you advise, then?' I asked. 'That I should take a knife, or a gun, or an ax, and kill this man?'

She started back.

'No, not that!'

'Then what should I do? Kill myself?'

'You speak in purely materialistic terms,' she objected. 'There is such a thing as moral courage, and moral courage is never without effect.'

'Ah,' I smiled, 'you advise me to kill neither him nor myself, but to let him kill me.' I held up my hand as she was about to speak. 'For moral courage is a worthless asset on this little floating world. Leach, one of the men who were murdered, had moral courage to an unusual degree. So had the other man, Johnson. Not only did it not stand them in good stead, but it destroyed them. And so with me, if I should exercise what little moral courage I may possess. You must understand, Miss Brewster, and understand clearly, that this man is a monster. He is without conscience. Nothing is sacred to him, nothing is too terrible for him to do. It was due to his whim that I was detained aboard in the first place. It is due to his whim that I am still alive. I do nothing, can do nothing, because I am a slave to this monster, as you are now a slave to him; because I desire to live, as you will desire to live; because I cannot fight and overcome him, just as you will not be able to fight and overcome him.'

She waited for me to go on.

'What remains? Mine is the role of the weak. I remain silent and suffer ignominy as you will remain silent and suffer ignominy. And it is well. It is the best we can do if we wish to live. The battle is not always to the strong. We have not the strength with which to fight this man; we must dissimulate, and win, if win we can, by craft. If you will be advised by me, this is what you will do. I know my position is perilous, and I may say frankly that yours is even more perilous. We must stand together, without appearing to do so, in secret alliance. I shall not be able to side with you openly, and, no matter what indignities may be put upon me, you are to remain likewise silent. We must provoke no scenes with this man, or cross his will. And we must keep smiling faces and be friendly with him, no matter how repulsive it may be.'

She brushed her hand across her forehead in a puzzled way, saying, 'Still, I do not understand.'

'You must do as I say,' I interrupted authoritatively, for I saw Wolf Larsen's gaze wandering toward us from where he paced up and down with Latimer amidships. 'Do as I say, and before long you will find I am right.'

'What shall I do, then?' she asked, detecting the anxious glance I had shot at the object of our conversation, and impressed, I flatter myself with the earnestness of my manner.

'Dispense with all the moral courage you can,' I said briskly. 'Don't arouse this man's animosity. Be quite friendly with him, talk with him, discuss literature and art with him – he is fond of such things. You will find him an interested listener and no fool. And for your own sake try to avoid witnessing, as much as you can, the brutalities of the ship. It will make it easier for you to act your part.'

'I am to lie,' she said in steady, rebellious tones; 'by speech and action to lie.'

Wolf Larsen had separated from Latimer and was coming toward us. I was desperate.

'Please, please understand me,' I said hurriedly, lowering my voice. 'All your experience of men and things is worthless here. You must begin over again. I know – I can see it – you have, among other ways, been used to managing people with your eyes, letting your moral courage speak out through them, as it were. You have already managed me with your eyes, commanded me with them. But don't try it on Wolf Larsen. You could as easily control a lion, while he would make a mock of you. He would-'

'I have always been proud of the fact that I discovered him,' I said, turning the conversation as Wolf Larsen stepped on the poop and joined us. 'The editors were afraid of him, and the publishers would have none of him. But I knew, and his genius and my judgment were vindicated when he made that magnificent hit with his "Plowman."

'And it was a newspaper poem,' she said glibly.

'It did happen to see the light in a newspaper,' I replied, 'but not because the magazine editors had been denied a glimpse at it.

'We were talking of Harris,' I said to Wolf Larsen.

'Oh, yes,' he acknowledged. 'I remember "The Ring." Filled with pretty sentiments and an almighty faith in human illusions. By the way, Mr. Van Weyden, you'd better look in on Cooky. He's complaining and restless.'

Thus was I bluntly dismissed from the poop, only to find Mugridge sleeping soundly from the morphine I had given him. I made no haste to return on deck, and when I did, I was gratified to see Miss Brewster in animated conversation with Wolf Larsen. As I say, the sight gratified me. She was following my advice. And yet I was conscious of a slight shock or hurt in that she was able to do the thing I had begged her to do, and which she had notably disliked.


BRAVE WINDS, BLOWING FAIR, swiftly drove the Ghost northward into the sealherd. We encountered it well up to the forty-fourth parallel, in a raw and stormy sea across which the wind harried the fog-banks in eternal flight. For days at a time we could never see the sun or take an observation; then the wind would sweep the face of the ocean clean, the waves would ripple and flash, and we would learn where we were. A day of clear weather might follow, or three days or four, and then the fog would settle down upon us seemingly thicker than ever.

The hunting was perilous; yet the boats were lowered day after day, were swallowed up in the gray obscurity, and were seen no more till nightfall, and often not till long after, when they would creep in like sea-wraiths, one by one, out of the gray. Wainwright, the hunter whom Wolf Larsen had stolen with boat and men, took advantage of the veiled sea and escaped. He disappeared one morning in the encircling fog with his two men, and we never saw them again, though it was not many days before we learned that they had passed from schooner to schooner until they finally regained their own.

This was the thing I had set my mind upon doing, but the opportunity never offered. It was not in the mate's province to go out in the boats, and though I maneuvered cunningly for it, Wolf Larsen never granted me the privilege. Had he done so, I should have managed somehow to carry Miss Brewster away with me. As it was, the situation was approaching a stage which I was afraid to consider. I involuntarily shunned the thought of it, and yet the thought continually arose in my mind like a haunting specter.

I had read sea-romances in my time, wherein figured, as a matter of course, the lone woman in the midst of a shipload of men; but I learned now that I had never comprehended the deeper significance of such a situation – the thing the writers harped upon and exploited so thoroughly. And here it was now, and I was face to face with it. That it should be as vital as possible, it required no more than that the woman should be Maud Brewster, who now charmed me in person as she had long charmed me through her work.

No one more out of environment could be imagined. She was a delicate, ethereal creature, swaying and willowy, light and graceful of movement. It never seemed to me that she walked, or, at least, walked after the ordinary manner of mortals. Hers was an extreme lithesomeness, and she moved with a certain indefinable airiness, approaching one as down might float or as bird on noiseless wings.

She was like a bit of Dresden china, and I was continually impressed with what I may call her fragility. As at the time I caught her arm when helping her below, so at any time I was quite prepared, should stress or rough handling befall her, to see her crumble away. I have never seen body and spirit in such perfect accord. Describe her verse, as the critics have, as sublimated and spiritual, and you have described her body. It seemed to partake of her soul, to have analogous attributes, and to link it to life with the slenderest of chains. Indeed, she trod the earth lightly, and in her constitution there was little of the robust clay.

She was in striking contrast to Wolf Larsen. Each was nothing that the other was, everything that the other was not. I noted them walking the deck together one morning, and I likened them to the extreme ends of the human ladder of evolution – the one the culmination of all savagery, the other the finished product of the finest civilization. True, Wolf Larsen possessed intellect to an unusual degree, but it was directed solely to the exercise of his savage instincts and made him but the more formidable a savage. He was splendidly muscled, a heavy man, and though he strode with the certitude and directness of the physical man, there was nothing heavy about his stride. The jungle and the wilderness lurked in the lift and downput of his feet. He was cat-footed, lithe, and strong, always strong. I likened him to some great tiger, a beast of prowess and prey. He looked it, and the piercing glitter that arose at times in his eyes was the same piercing glitter I had observed in the eyes of caged leopards and other preying creatures of the wild.

But this day, as I noted them pacing up and down, I saw that it was she who terminated the walk. They came up to where I was standing by the entrance to the companionway. Though she betrayed it by no outward sign, I felt, somehow, that she was greatly perturbed. She made some idle remark, looking at me, and laughed lightly enough, but I saw her eyes return to his, involuntarily, as though fascinated; then they fell, but not swiftly enough to veil the rush of terror that filled them.

It was in his eyes that I saw the cause of her perturbation. Ordinarily gray and cold and harsh, they were now warm and soft and golden, and all adance with tiny lights that dimmed and faded, or welled up till the full orbs were flooded with a flowing radiance. Perhaps it was to this that the golden color was due; but golden his eyes were, enticing and masterful, at the same time luring and compelling, and speaking a demand and clamor of the blood which no woman, much less Maud Brewster, could misunderstand.

Her own terror rushed upon me, and in that moment of fear, the most terrible fear a man can experience, I knew that in inexpressible ways she was dear to me. The knowledge that I loved her rushed upon me with the terror, and with both emotions gripping at my heart and causing my blood at the same time to chill and to leap riotously. I felt myself drawn by a power without me and beyond me, and found my eyes returning against my will to gaze into the eyes of Wolf Larsen. But he had recovered himself. The golden color and the dancing lights were gone. Cold and gray and glittering they were as he bowed brusquely and turned away.

'I am afraid,' she whispered, with a shiver. 'I am so afraid.'

I, too, was afraid, and, what of my discovery of how much she meant to me, my mind was in a turmoil; but I succeeded in answering quite calmly: 'All will come right, Miss Brewster. Trust me; it will come right.'

She answered with a grateful little smile that sent my heart pounding, and started to descend the companion-stairs.

For a long while I remained standing where she had left me. There was imperative need to adjust myself, to consider the significance of the changed aspect of things. It had come at last: love had come when I least expected it, and under the most forbidding conditions. Of course my philosophy had always recognized the inevitableness of the love-call sooner or later; but long years of bookish silence had made me inattentive and unprepared.

And now it had come! Maud Brewster! My memory flashed back to that first thin little volume on my desk, and I saw before me, as though in the concrete, the row of thin little volumes on my library shelf. How I had welcomed each of them! Each year one had come from the press, and to me each was the advent of the year. They had voiced a kindred intellect and spirit, and as such I had received them into a camaraderie of the mind; but now their place was in my heart.

My heart? A revulsion of feeling came over me. I seemed to stand outside myself and to look at myself incredulously. Maud Brewster! Humphrey Van Weyden, the 'cold-blooded fish,' the 'emotionless monster,' the 'analytical demon,' of Charley Furuseth's christening, in love! And then, without rhyme or reason, all skeptical, my mind flew back to a small note in a biographical directory, and I said to myself: 'She was born in Cambridge, and she is twenty-seven years old.' And then I said: 'Twenty-seven years old, and still free and fancy-free.' But how did I know she was fancy-free? And the pang of new-born jealousy put all incredulity to flight. There was no doubt about it. I was jealous; therefore I loved. And the woman I loved was Maud Brewster.

I, Humphrey Van Weyden, was in love! And again the doubt assailed me. Not that I was afraid of it, however, or reluctant to meet it. On the contrary, idealist that I was to the most pronounced degree, my philosophy had always recognized and guerdoned love as the greatest thing in the world, the aim and the summit of being, the most exquisite pitch of joy and happiness to which life could thrill, the thing of all things to be hailed and welcomed and taken into the heart. But now that it had come I could not believe. I could not be so fortunate. It was too good, too good to be true. These lines came into my head:

I wandered all these years among
A world of women, seeking you.

And then I had ceased seeking. It was not for me, this greatest thing in the world, I had decided. Furuseth was right; I was abnormal, an 'emotionless monster,' a strange bookish creature capable of pleasuring in sensations only of the mind. And though I had been surrounded by women all my days, my appreciation of them had been esthetic and nothing more. I had actually, at times, considered myself outside the pale, a monkish fellow denied the eternal or the passing passions I saw and understood so well in others. And now it had come! Undreamed of and unheralded, it had come. In what would have been no less than an ecstasy, I left my post at the head of the companionway and started along the deck, murmuring to myself those beautiful lines of Mrs. Browning:

I lived with visions for my company
Instead of men and women years ago,
And found them gentle mates, nor thought to know
A sweeter music than they played to me.

But the sweeter music was playing in my ears, and I was blind and oblivious to all about me. The sharp voice of Wolf Larsen aroused me.

'What the hell are you up to?' he was demanding.

I had strayed forward where the sailors were painting, and I came to myself to find my advancing foot on the verge of overturning a paint-pot.

'Sleepwalking, sunstroke – what?' he barked.

'No; indigestion,' I retorted, and continued my walk as if nothing untoward had occurred.


AMONG THE MOST VIVID memories of my life are those of the events on the Ghost which occurred during the forty hours succeeding the discovery of my love for Maud Brewster. I, who had lived my life in quiet places, only to enter at the age of thirty-five upon a court of the most irrational adventure I could have imagined, never had more incident and excitement crammed into any forty hours of my experience. Nor can I quite close my ears to a small voice of pride which tells me I did not do so badly, all things considered.

To begin with, at the midday dinner Wolf Larsen informed the hunters that they were to eat thenceforth in the steerage. It was an unprecedented thing on sealing-schooners, where it is the custom for the hunters to rank unofficially as officers. He gave no reason, but his motive was obvious enough. Horner and Smoke had been displaying a gallantry toward Maud Brewster, ludicrous in itself and inoffensive to her, but to him evidently distasteful.

The announcement was received with black silence, though the other four hunters glanced significantly at the two who had been the cause of their banishment. Jock Horner, quiet as was his way, gave no sign; but the blood surged darkly across Smoke's forehead, and he half opened his mouth to speak. Wolf Larsen was watching him, waiting for him, the steely glitter in his eyes; but Smoke closed his mouth again without having said anything.

'Anything to say?' the other demanded aggressively.

It was a challenge, but Smoke refused to accept it.

'About what?' he asked so innocently that Wolf Larsen was disconcerted, while the others smiled.

'Oh, nothing,' Wolf Larsen said lamely. 'I just thought you might want to register a kick.'

'About what?' asked the imperturbable Smoke.

Smoke's mates were now smiling broadly. His captain could have killed him, and I doubt not that blood would have flowed had not Maud Brewster been present. For that matter, it was her presence which enabled Smoke to act as he did. He was too discreet and cautious a man to incur Wolf Larsen's anger at a time when that anger could be expressed in terms stronger than words. I was in fear that a struggle might take place, but a cry from the helmsman made it easy for the situation to save itself.

'Smoke ho!' the cry came down the open companionway.

'How's it bear?' Wolf Larsen called up.

'Dead astern, sir!'

'Maybe it's a Russian,' suggested Latimer.

His words brought anxiety into the faces of the other hunters. A Russian could mean but one thing – a cruiser. The hunters, never more than roughly aware of the position of the ship, nevertheless knew that we were close to the boundaries of the forbidden sea, while Wolf Larsen's record as a poacher was notorious. All eyes centered upon him.

'We're dead safe,' he assured them with a laugh. 'No salt-mines this time, Smoke. But I'll tell you what – I'll lay odds of five to one it's the Macedonia.'

No one accepted his offer, and he went on: 'In which event I'll lay ten to one there's trouble breezing up.'

'No, thank you,' Latimer spoke up. 'I don't object to losing my money, but I like to get a run for it, anyway. There never was a time when there wasn't trouble when you and that brother of yours got together, and I'll lay twenty to one on that.'

A general smile followed, in which Wolf Larsen joined, and the dinner went on smoothly, thanks to me, for he treated me abominably the rest of the meal, sneering at me and patronizing me till I was all a-tremble with suppressed rage. Yet I knew I must control myself for Maud Brewster's sake, and I received my reward when her eyes caught mine for a fleeting second, and they said as distinctly as if she spoke, 'Be brave, be brave!'

We left the table to go on deck, for a steamer was a welcome break in the monotony of the sea on which we floated, while the conviction that it was 'Death' Larsen and the Macedonia added to the excitement. The stiff breeze and heavy sea which had sprung up the previous afternoon had been moderating all the morning, so that it was now possible to lower the boats for an afternoon's hunt. The hunting promised to be profitable. We had sailed since daylight across a sea barren of seals and were now running into the herd.

The smoke was still miles astern, but overhauling us rapidly, when we lowered our boats. They spread out and struck a northerly course across the ocean. Now and again we saw a sail lower, heard the reports of the shotguns, and saw the sail go up again. The seals were thick, the wind dying away; everything favored a big catch. As we ran off to get our leeward position of the last lee boat, we found the ocean fairly carpeted with sleeping seals. They were all about us, thicker than I had ever seen them before, in twos and threes and bunches, stretched full-length on the surface, and sleeping for all the world like so many lazy young dogs.

Under the approaching smoke the hull and upper works of a steamer were growing larger and larger. It was the Macedonia. I read her name through the glasses as she passed by scarcely a mile to starboard. Wolf Larsen looked savagely at the vessel, while Maud Brewster was curious.

'Where is the trouble you were so sure was breezing up, Captain Larsen?' she asked gaily.

He glanced at her, a moment's amusement softening his features.

'What did you expect? That they'd come aboard and cut out throats?'

'Something like that,' she confessed. 'You understand, seal-hunters are so new and strange to me that I am quite ready to expect anything.'

He nodded his head.