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COPYRIGHT 2013 International Education Institute,
ATTN: Ken Harvey, 2027 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick
WA 99336, USA
THE SEA-WOLFby Jack London
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.
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
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.
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
nasty weather like this here that
turns heads gray before their time,' he said,
with a nod toward the
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
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!'
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.
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.'
unseen ferryboat was blowing blast after
blast, and the mouth-blown horn was tooting in
they're payin' their respects to
each other and tryin' to get clear,' the
red-faced man went on, as the hurried
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
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.
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!'
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.
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.
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.'
breeze was blowing right down
upon us, and I could hear the whistle plainly,
off to one side and a little
nodded, then added: 'Or he wouldn't be
keepin' up such a clip.' He gave a short
chuckle. 'They're gettin' anxious up
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.
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!'
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
meant me, I thought, and then the
blankness and darkness rose over me.
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
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.
do, Yonson,' one of the men said.
'Carn't yer see you've bloomin' well rubbed all
the gent's skin off?'
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.
yer feelin' now, sir?' he asked,
with the subservient smirk which comes only of
generations of tip-seeking
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.
grinned at my exhibition of
nerves, and thrust into my hand a steaming mug
with an ''Ere, this'll do yer
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
you, Mr. Yonson,' I said; 'but don't
you think your measures were rather heroic?'
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.
is Johnson, not Yonson,' he said
in very good, though slow, English, with no more
than a shade of accent to it.
mild protest in his pale-blue
eyes, and, withal, a timid frankness and
manliness that quite won me to him.
you, Mr. Johnson,' I corrected, and
reached out my hand for his.
hesitated, awkward and bashful, shifted
his weight from one leg to the other, then
blunderingly gripped my hand in a
any dry clothes I may put on?' I
asked the cook.
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.'
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.
where am I?' I asked Johnson, whom I
took, and rightly, to be one of the sailors.
'What vessel is this? And where is
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.'
is the captain? I must see him as
soon as I am dressed?'
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-'
did not finish. The cook had glided
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.'
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.
over the cook's arm was a loose and
crumpled array of evil-looking and sour-smelling
put aw'y wet, sir,' he vouchsafed
explanation. 'But you'll 'ave to make them do
while I dry yours out by the fire.'
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:
'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.'
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.
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
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.
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.
sir,' he fawned, his effeminate
features running into a greasy smile. 'Thomas
Mugridge, sir, an' at yer
right, Thomas,' I said. 'I shall not
forget you – when my clothes are dry.'
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.
you, sir,' he said very gratefully
and very humbly indeed.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
LARSEN CEASED SWEARING as suddenly as
he had begun. He relighted his cigar and glanced
around. His eyes chanced upon
Cooky?' he began, with a suaveness
that was cold and of the temper of steel.
sir,' the cook eagerly interpolated,
with appeasing and apologetic servility.
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,
word, in striking contrast with
the smoothness of his previous utterance,
snapped like the lash of a whip. The
cook quailed under it.
sir,' was the meek reply, as the
offending head disappeared into the galley.
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
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.'
I put on his feet, sir?' the man
asked, after the customary 'Aye, aye, sir.'
see to that,' Wolf Larsen answered,
and elevated his voice in a cal of 'Cooky!'
Mugridge popped out of his galley
like a jack-in-the-box.
and fill a sack with coal.'
you fellows got a Bible or
prayer-book?' was the captain's next demand,
this time of the hunters lounging
about the companionway.
shook their heads, and some one made a
jocular remark which I did not catch, but which
raised a general laugh.
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.'
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
time he had swung fully around and
was facing me.
preacher, aren't you?' he asked.
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.
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
– 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.
return. I told him that, unhappily
for the burial service, I was not a preacher,
when he sharply demanded:
you do for a living?'
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.'
curled in a swift sneer.
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.
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.
feeds you?' was his next question.
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.'
disregarded my protest.
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.'
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
Larsen dropped my hand with a flirt of
men's hands have kept it soft. Good
for little else than dishwashing and
to be put ashore,' I said firmly,
for I now had myself in control.
pay you whatever you judge your
delay and trouble to be worth.'
at me curiously. Mockery shone in
'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.'
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.
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.'
probably,' was Wolf Larsen's answer,
as he turned partly away from me and cried out,
'Cooky! Oh, Cooky!'
Cockney popped out of the galley.
that boy? Tell him I want him.'
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
is, sir,' the cook said.
Larsen ignored that worthy,
turning at once to the cabin-boy.
your name, boy?'
Leach, sir,' came the sullen
answer, and the boy's bearing showed clearly
that he divined the reason for
which he had been summoned.
Irish name,' the captain snapped
sharply. 'O'Toole or McCarthy would suit your
mug a-sight better.
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?'
Wolf Larsen thundered.
& Swanson, sir,' the boy
corrected, his eyes burning with a bitter light.
the advance money?'
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
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
Wolf Larsen asked, a peculiar
softness in his voice, as though he were
overwhelmingly curious to hear the
hesitated, then mastered his
temper. 'Nothin', sir. I take it back.'
have shown me I was right.' This
with a gratified smile. 'How old are you?'
turned sixteen, sir.'
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?'
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
never mind; you're mate just the
same. Get your traps aft into the mate's berth.'
aye, sir,' was the cheery response,
as Johansen started forward.
meantime the erstwhile cabin-boy had
you waiting for?' Wolf Larsen
sign for boat-puller, sir,' was
the reply. 'I signed for cabin-boy. An' I don't
want no boat-pullin' in mine.'
and go for'ard.'
Wolf Larsen's command was
thrillingly imperative. The boy glowered
sullenly, but refused to move.
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
Larsen asked of me. 'Have you made
up your mind?'
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
vessel is that?' I asked.
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.'
please signal it, then, so that I
may be put ashore?'
but I've lost the signal-book
overboard,' he remarked, and the group of
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:
Mine, ahoy! Take me ashore! A
thousand dollars if you take me ashore!'
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
the matter? Anything wrong?'
the cry from the Lady Mine.
shouted at the top of my lungs.
'Life or death! One thousand dollars if you take
'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
on the Lady Mine laughed back
through the megaphone. The pilot-boat plunged
– for me!' came a final cry, and
the two men waved their arms in farewell.
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.
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.
Leach, are you going for'ard?' Wolf
sir,' came the answer of a spirit
you?' I was asked.
give you a thousand-' I began, but
that! Are you going to take up your
duties as cabin-boy? Or do I have to take you in
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.
sir,' I corrected.
sir – Humphrey Van Weyden.'
do. Go to the cook and learn your
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
don't go yet.'
obediently in my walk toward the
call all hands. Now that we've
everything cleaned up, we'll have the funeral
and get the decks cleared of
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.
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.
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
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
remember one part of the service,'
he said, 'and that is, "And the body shall be
cast into the sea." So
cast it in.'
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.
that end there! What the – 's
the matter with you?'
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.
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.'
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-
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
comes! Sling yer 'ook!' the cook
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:
hold something, you – you Hump!'
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:
you! Don't tyke all night about it!
Where's the pot? Lost overboard? Serve you
bloody well right if yer neck was
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
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.
wot're you snifflin' about?' he burst
out at me with renewed rage. ''Cos you've 'urt
yer pore little leg, pore little
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
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.
pleased when I nodded my head
with the customary 'Yes, sir.'
suppose you know a bit about literary
things? Eh? Good. I'll have some talks with you
taking no further account of me,
he turned his back and went up on deck.
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.
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
nasty,' he commented. 'Tie a rag
around it, and it'll be all right.'
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
'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
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.
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
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
'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.'
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.
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.
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.'
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
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.
glimpse I had caught of his other side
must have emboldened me, for I resolved to speak
to him about the money I had
been robbed,' I said to him a
little later, when I found him pacing up and
down the poop alone.
corrected, not harshly, but
been robbed, sir,' I amended.
it happen?' he asked.
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.
at my recital.
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
feel the quiet sneer through his
words, but demanded, 'How can I get it back
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?'
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.
immortality in your eyes,' I
answered, dropping the 'sir' – an experiment,
for I thought the intimacy of the
conversation warranted it.
no notice. 'By that, I take it, you
see something that is alive, but that
necessarily does not have to live
more than that,' I continued
read consciousness. You read the
consciousness of life that it is alive; but
still, no further away, no
endlessness of life.'
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
what end?' he demanded abruptly,
turning back to me. 'If I am immortal, why?'
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
you believe, then?' I countered.
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?'
his arm in an impatient gesture
toward a number of the sailors who were working
on some kind of rope-stuff
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.'
have dreams,' I interrupted;
'radiant, flashing dreams – '
grub,' he concluded sententiously.
more – '
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
is beside the matter,' I cried.
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?'
you are stronger,' I managed to
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?'
hopelessness of it,' I protested.
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!'
abruptly turned on his heel and started
forward. He stopped at the break of the poop and
called me to him.
way, how much was it that Cooky got
away with?' he asked.
hundred and eighty-five dollars, sir,'
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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?'
he is so well known for what he
is,' I queried, 'how is it that he can get men
to ship with him?'
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.
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.'
can't mean it!' I cried out,
overcome with the horror of it.
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!'
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.'
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.
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
vocytion." "an' ow's that?" says I. "Yer should'
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.'
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.
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
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.'
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.'
sir,' the mate acknowledged
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
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.
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.
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.'
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
will ye!' Louis whispered to him.
'For the love iv your mother, hold your mouth!'
Johnson, looking on, still continued
here,' – the hunter Standish spoke to
Wolf Larsen, – 'that's my boat-puller, and I
don't want to lose him.'
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.'
that's no reason – ' Standish began in
a torrent of speech.
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
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.
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
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
off your course, my man! Be
careful, unless you're looking for trouble.'
aye, sir,' the helmsman responded,
putting a couple of spokes down.
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
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.
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
you, what are you up to?' he cried.
ascent was arrested. He looked
his captain in the eyes and replied slowly:
going to get that boy down.'
get down out of that rigging, and –
lively about it! D'ye hear! Get down!'
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.
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.
closing this incident, I must give a
scrap of conversation I had with Wolf Larsen in
the cabin, while I was washing
looking squeamish this
afternoon,' he began. 'What was the matter?'
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
He gave a
short laugh. 'Like seasickness, I
suppose. Some men are subject to it, and others
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
who make a mock of human life,
don't you place any value upon it whatever?' I
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
what is it worth to you? Another
man's life, I mean. Come, now, what is it
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.
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.'
read Darwin,' I said. 'But you
read him misunderstandingly when you conclude
that the struggle for existence
sanctions your wanton destruction of life.'
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?'
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?'
are at least consistent,' was all
I could say, and I went on washing the dishes.
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
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.
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.
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
Hump? How's it strike you?' he asked,
after the due pause which words and setting
into his face. It was aglow with
light, as the sea itself, and the eyes were
flashing in the starshine.
strikes me as remarkable, to say the
least, that you should show enthusiasm,' I
man, it's living; it's life!' he
a cheap thing and without value.'
I flung his words at him.
laughed, and it was the first time I had
heard honest mirth in his voice.
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.'
appeared waiting for the words with
which to express the thought that was in him,
and finally went on:
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.'
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
Oh, I am the
wind the seamen love-
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.'
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
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
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.'
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.
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.
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.
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.
Larsen was counting his winnings.
hundred and eighty-five dollars,
even,' he said aloud. 'Just as I thought. The
beggar came aboard without a
you have won is mine, sir,' I
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
'It is a
question, not of grammar, but of
ethics,' I answered.
possibly a minute before he spoke.
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
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.'
understand,' I said. 'The fact is that
you have the money.'
brightened. He seemed pleased at
avoiding the real question,' I
continued, 'which is one of right.'
remarked, with a wry pucker of his
mouth, 'I see you still believe in such things
as right and wrong.'
don't you – at all?' I demanded.
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.'
wrong me by withholding it,' I
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.'
don't believe in altruism?' I
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?'
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.'
his head. 'Oh, yes, I remember it
now. I ran across it in Spencer.'
I cried. 'Have you read him?'
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
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.
else did you run across?' I asked.
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
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.'
highest, finest right conduct,' I
interjected, 'is that act which benefits at the
same time the man, his
children, and his race.'
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.'
are an individualist, a
materialist, and, logically, a hedonist.'
words,' he smiled. 'But what is a
agreement when I had given the
are also,' I continued, 'a man one
could not trust in the least thing where it was
possible for a selfish interest
you're beginning to understand,' he
a man utterly without what the
world calls morals?'
'A man of
whom to be always afraid-'
the way to put it.'
is afraid of a snake, or a tiger,
or a shark?'
know me,' he said. 'And you know
me as I am generally known. Other men call me
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.'
clouded at the allusion. He did
not understand, and I quickly learned that he
did not know the poem.
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.
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':
you've got to hustle tonight. I'm
busy with Hump, and you'll do the best you can
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
have been worse,' he smiled.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.'
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
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.
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.
you're afraid, eh?' he sneered.
said defiantly and honestly, 'I am
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?
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
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.'
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
nothing happened. At the end of two
hours Thomas Mugridge put away knife and stone
and held out his hand.
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.'
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.
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'
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.
Cooky's finish,' I heard Smoke say
bet,' was the reply. 'Hump runs the
galley from now on, and Cooky pulls in his
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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,
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.
Hump!' he greeted me genially. 'I'm
just finished the finishing touches. Want to see
is it?' I asked.
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!'
a ring of triumph in his voice,
and his eyes, clear blue this morning as the
sea, were sparkling with light.
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.
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
creative joy,' I murmured.
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.'
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.
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?
curiosity burst from me in a flood of
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?'
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:
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.'
he queried half petulantly. 'It was
not well. I was one of those seeds.'
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.
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.'
there is,' I objected. 'It is still
obscure to me.'
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.'
who read Spencer and Darwin and
have never seen the inside of a school, how did
you learn to read and write?' I
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
history tells of slaves who rose to
the purple,' I chided.
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.'
is he? And where is he?'
of the steamship Macedonia,
seal-hunter,' was the answer. 'We will meet him
most probably on the Japan
coast. Men call him "Death" Larsen.'
Larsen!' I involuntarily cried. 'Is
he like you?'
He is a lump of an animal without
any head. He has all my – my-'
thank you for the word – all my
brutishness; but he can scarcely read or write.'
has never philosophized on life,' I
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.'
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
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
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.
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
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
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.'
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.'
Omar?' Wolf Larsen asked, and I
did no more work that day, nor the next, or
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
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:
asking, hither hurried Whence?
Wolf Larsen cried. 'Great! That's
the keynote. Insolence! He could not have used a
In vain I
objected and denied. He deluged
me, overwhelmed me with argument.
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.
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 – '
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.
have I convinced you?' he demanded.
'Here, take a drink of this. I want to ask you
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.
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.'
that I was of this monster, the
discussion of Omar and the Preacher was resumed.
And half the night we sat up
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
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.
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
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.
doors and draw the slide,' Wolf
Larsen said to me.
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.
is Johnson, sir,' the sailor
Johnson, then, – you! Can you guess
why I have sent for you?'
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.'
that all?' Wolf Larsen queried, his
voice soft and low and purring.
you have it in for me,' Johnson
continued with his unalterable and ponderous
slowness. 'You do not like me. You
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.'
too much of a man for ship
discipline, if that is what you mean, and if you
know what I mean,' was Wolf
English, and I know what you mean,
sir,' Johnson answered, his flush deepening at
the slur on his knowledge of the
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.'
you've been shooting off your mouth
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
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.
know what happens to men who say
what you've said about my slop-chest and me?'
Wolf Larsen was demanding.
sir,' was the answer.
Wolf Larsen demanded sharply and
and the mate there are going to
do to me, sir.'
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Johansen; easy as she goes,' Wolf
Larsen finally said.
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.
open the doors, Hump,' Larsen commanded.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
worked himself into an ecstasy of
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,
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
Lord!' he cried. ''Elp! 'Elp! Tyke 'im
aw'y, carn't yer? Tyke 'im aw'y!'
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.'
he hasn't,' I answered.
bet he sleeps in it,' Harrison
won't lose,' I agreed. 'The same
shirt, and he hasn't had it off once in all this
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.
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.
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.
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'
were running down his puffed and
discolored cheeks, and his face was drawn with
pain. A savage expression
flitted across it.
I 'ate 'im! 'Ow I 'ate 'im!' he
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:
'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
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
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?
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
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.
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
for you yet, you slab-footed
Swede.' I heard him say to Johansen one night on
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.
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.
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
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-'
else,' I prompted.
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.
still no more dead men,' I twitted
Louis, when Smoke and Henderson, side by side,
in friendly conversation, took
their first exercise on deck.
surveyed me with his shrewd gray eyes
and shook his head portentously.
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
first?' I queried.
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.'
been s'yin' to yer?' Thomas
Mugridge demanded a moment later.
he's going home some day to see his
mother,' I answered diplomatically.
'ad none,' was the Cockney's
comment, as he gazed with lusterless, hopeless
eyes into mine.
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.
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.
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.
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
you last write to her?'
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.'
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.'
she work? Now? How old is she?'
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
never forget this conversation. The
words were the last I ever heard him utter.
Perhaps they were the last he did
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.
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.
the matter?' I asked. 'Are you
his head, and with a deep sigh, as
of awakening, caught his breath.
better get on your course, then,' I
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.
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
right, Hump,' he said in a low voice.
'Where's the mate?'
he called softly. 'Johansen!'
he?' he demanded of Harrison.
fellow seemed to have recovered
his composure, for he answered steadily enough:
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
have been overboard, sir.'
look for him in the steerage,
sir?' I asked.
Larsen shook his head.
wouldn't find him, Hump. But you'll
do. Come on. Never mind your bedding. Leave it
where it is.'
followed at his heels. There was nothing
cursed hunters!' was his comment.
'Too fat and lazy to stand a four-hour watch.'
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.
lookout?' he demanded.
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
hear or see anything on deck?'
Larsen had turned away with a
snort of disgust, leaving the sailor rubbing his
eyes with surprise at having
been let off so easily.
now,' Wolf Larsen warned me in a
whisper, as he doubled his body into the
forecastle scuttle and prepared to
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
shilling's worth a quarter; but keep
your lamps out for thruppenny bits, or the
publicans'll shove 'em on you for
rolled over on his side with a
heavy, sobbing sigh, saying:
sixpence is a tanner, and a shilling a
bob, but what a pony is I don't know.'
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
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.
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.
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.
knife, somebody!' Leach was
him on the head! Mash his brains
out!' was Johnson's cry.
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.
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
hands! We've got him! We've got him!'
I could hear Leach crying.
asked those who had been asleep.
bloody mate!' was Leach's crafty
answer. The words were strained from him in a
smothered sort of way.
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.
the row there?' I heard Latimer
shout down the scuttle, too cautious to descend
into the inferno.
somebody get a knife?' Leach pleaded
in the first interval of comparative silence.
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
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.
it?' Latimer cried.
I heard a muffled voice from
within the mass.
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.
A DEAL OF CURSING and groaning as
the men at the bottom of the ladder crawled to
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.
find it knockin' about by the
bitts,' Leach said, sitting down on the edge of
the bunk in which I 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
was you, was it, you black beggar?'
belligerently demanded Kelly, an Irish-American
and a longshoreman making his
first trip, and puller for Kerfoot.
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.
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?'
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.
he get away?' said Johnson.
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.
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.
one of you to get a knife!' was
his unceasing lament.
rest had a lively fear of
consequences, and gave no heed to him.
he know which was which?' Kelly
asked, and as he went on he looked murderously
about him – 'unless one of us
know as soon as ever he claps eyes
on us,' Parsons replied. 'One look at you'd be
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
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.'
was me you hit, of course,' Kelly
seconded, his face brightening.
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:
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.'
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.'
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
the Old Man wants you.'
down here!' said Parsons.
is,' I said, sliding out of the
bunk and striving my hardest to keep my voice
steady and bold.
sailors looked at me in consternation.
Fear was strong in their faces, and the
devilishness which comes of fear.
coming!' I shouted up to Latimer.
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!'
go!' Leach commanded.
yer life!' was the angry retort.
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.
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.
seen and heard nothing, believe
me,' I said quietly.
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.'
Wolf Larsen in the cabin, stripped
and bloody, waiting for me. He greeted me with
his whimsical smile.
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.'
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.
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
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.
noticed me, and I became aware that I
was staring at him.
you well,' I said.
he answered. 'I have often
thought so myself, and wondered why.'
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,'
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.
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
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
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.
'I – I
don't understand navigation, you
know,' I gasped.
necessary at all.'
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.'
as though it were all settled.
be mate on this hell-ship!' I
I saw his
face grow hard and the merciless
glitter come into his eyes. He walked to the
door of his room, saying:
Mr. Van Weyden, good night.'
night, Mr. Larsen,' I answered
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.
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.'
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
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.'
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
it is cowardly, cowardly,' I
cried. 'You have all the advantage.'
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.'
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.
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
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.'
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.
he said, 'you know I'm going to
kill you sometime or other, don't you?'
was the answer.
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.'
suggestion,' he added, in an aside
to me. 'I'll bet you a month's pay he acts upon
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.
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
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.
watch me take Kelly's right oar,'
Smoke said, drawing a more careful aim.
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
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
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
approached me as I returned aft.
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
my head, but said:
all win back to San Francisco,
Leach, and you'll be with me when I go to see
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.'
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
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.'
it is going to howl, and there are
only two of us?' I asked, a note of protest in
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
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.
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
to the galley.
I heard him say, 'by the time
you've finished pots and pans you'll be wanted
on deck. Stand ready for a
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.'
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.
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
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?'
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.'
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.
have the breeze on our quarter,' he
explained to me. 'By the last guns the boats
were bearing away slightly to the
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.
Gawd she's not comin' all of a
bunch, Mr. Van Weyden!' was the Cockney's
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.
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.
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.'
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.
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.
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
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.
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.'
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
fast,' he shouted, 'and come on!'
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.
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.
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
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.
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.'
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
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.
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!
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.
boat!' Oofty-Oofty cried, his keen
eyes reading its number in the one second when
it lifted clear of the foam and
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.'
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.
think it was worth it,' I said to
Wolf Larsen, 'a broken boat for Kelly's life.'
Kelly didn't amount to much,' was the
reply. 'Good night.'
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
tell me, Mr. Van Weyden, how far
we are off the coast, and what the bearings of
leaped with gladness, for I knew
what he had in mind, and I gave him the bearings
– west-northwest and five
hundred miles away.
you, sir,' was all he said as he
slipped back into the darkness.
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.
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.
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.
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:
five men in that boat!'
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.
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.
who had descended to the deck and
was now standing by my side, began to chuckle in
a significant way. I looked at
a mess!' he giggled. 'It's a
pretty one we've got now.'
wrong?' I demanded.
chuckled. 'Don't you see there, in
the stern – sheets, on the bottom? May I never
shoot a seal again if that ain't
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.
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.
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
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.
Larsen's voice brought me sharply back
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
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.
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.
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?'
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
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
'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.'
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.'
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
four bells. Louis came aft to
relieve the wheel. There was a dampness in the
air, and I noticed he had on his
we going to have?' I asked him.
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.'
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
turned a spoke of the wheel and
never of made the land, sir, I'm
not?' I queried.
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
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
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?'
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.
Larsen pursed his lips in a long
her name, then?' he demanded.
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?'
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.'
his head in a bantering way and
regarded me with laughing eyes.
– ' I began. It was on the verge
of my tongue to ask if he were going to take the
castaways in to Yokohama.
what?' he asked.
you intend doing with Leach and
Hump, I don't know. You see, with
these additions I've about all the crew I want.'
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
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.'
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.'
and expression changed. His face
was serious. 'Do you believe in promises?' he
asked. 'Are they sacred things?'
course,' I answered.
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.
hardly believe my ears. What was
coming over the man?
'Is it a
go?' he asked impatiently.
'A go,' I
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
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.
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.
were gone astern. The sprit-sail
filled with the wind suddenly, careening the
frail, open craft till it seemed
it would surely capsize.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
he'll heave to in a little while and
pick them up,' I answered cheerfully.
looked at me shrewdly. 'Think so?' he
I answered. 'Don't you?'
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
you mean?' I demanded; for, having
sped his shaft, he was turning away.
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!'
trouble comes, will you stand by?'
asked impulsively, for he had voiced my own
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.'
not thought you so great a coward,'
favored me with a contemptuous stare.
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?'
scornfully away and went aft.
get in those topsails, Mr. Van
Weyden,' Wolf Larsen said, as I came on the
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
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
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
there!' Wolf Larsen shouted,
himself springing to the wheel and whirling it
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.
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.
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.
God! sir, what kind of a craft is
this?' he cried.
eyes; you have seen,' I answered
almost brutally, what of the pain and fear at my
promise?' I said to Wolf Larsen.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
shall we arrive at Yokohama?' she
asked, turning to him and looking him square in
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.
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.
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.'
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.
you think?' she demanded.
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?
Weyden speaks with the voice of
authority.' Wolf Larsen laughed.
my head and she, having recovered
herself, waited expectantly.
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?'
thus directly addressed, was
startled into dropping his knife on the floor,
though he managed to grunt
himself by peeling potatoes and
washing dishes. Eh, Kerfoot?'
that worthy grunted.
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
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.
have learned to stand on my own
legs,' I retorted. 'But I have yet to stamp upon
others with them.'
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
the peeling of potatoes and the
washing of dishes,' I answered, 'to say nothing
of wringing their necks, out of
'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
well-nigh choking, and my eyes were
certainly fiery. He drew attention to me.
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.'
his head sadly, murmuring, 'Too
bad, too bad,' while the hunters burst into
guffaws of laughter.
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
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.
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.
will be no passing vessels, except
other sealing-schooners,' Wolf Larsen made
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.'
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
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
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?'
regarded him with amazement
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
shrugged her shoulders.
feed yourself, or does some one
else feed you?'
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
suppose some one else makes your bed
made beds,' she replied.
her head with mock ruefulness.
know what they do to poor men in
the States who, like you, do not work for their
very ignorant,' she pleaded. 'What do
they do to the poor men who are like me?'
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?'
you are not Mr. Van Weyden, I don't
have to answer, do I?'
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.
ever earned a dollar by your own
labor?' he demanded, certain of her answer, a
triumphant vindictiveness in his
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.'
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.'
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
or piece-work?' he asked.
she answered promptly.
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
no acknowledgment. She was too
unused as yet to the whims of the man to accept
them with equanimity.
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?'
and ink,' she laughed. 'And, oh!
also a typewriter.'
Maud Brewster,' I said slowly and
with certainty, almost as though I were charging
her with a crime.
lifted curiously to mine.
you?' I demanded.
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.
remember writing a review of a thin
little volume-' I had begun carelessly, when she
she cried. 'You are-'
now staring at me in wide-eyed
my identity, in turn.
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.'
remember the review,' she went on
hastily, becoming aware of the awkwardness of
her remark, 'that too, too
all,' I denied valiantly. 'You
impeach my sober judgment and make my canons of
little worth, Besides, all my
brother critics were with me.'
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.
are Maud Brewster,' I said
solemnly, gazing across at her.
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.'
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.'
to, and disclaimed, the compliment.
met you, once, in Philadelphia,
some Browning affair or other – you were to
lecture, you know. My train was
four hours late.'
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.
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.
to his feet and laughed awkwardly.
The sound of it was metallic.
don't mind me,' he said, with a
self-depreciatory wave of his hand.
count. Go on, go on, I pray you.'
gates of speech were closed, and
we, too, rose from the table and laughed
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.
given you warning, Cooky,' Wolf
Larsen said, 'and now you've got to take your
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
the cause of the merriment?' she
Captain Larsen,' I answered composedly
and coldly, though inwardly my blood was boiling
at the thought that she should
be witness to such brutality.
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.
fishing?' she asked him.
no reply. His eyes, fixed intently
on the sea astern, suddenly flashed.
ho, sir!' he cried.
in! Lively! All hands tail on!' Wolf
Larsen shouted, springing himself to the rope in
advance of the quickest.
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!
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:
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-'
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?'
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.
get a tourniquet, Mr. Van
Weyden?' Wolf Larsen called to me.
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
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
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.
to the break of the poop, where
she turned and faced me. I glanced around to see
that no one was within hearing
it?' I asked gently; but the
expression of grim determination on her face did
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.'
a query in her voice, and she
faced me accusingly, as though I were guilty of
the deed, or at least a party
information is quite correct,' I
answered. 'The two men were murdered.'
permitted it!' she cried.
unable to prevent it, is a better
way of phrasing it,' I replied, still gently.
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?'
shrugged my shoulders.
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.
her head incredulously.
would you advise, then?' I asked.
'That I should take a knife, or a gun, or an ax,
and kill this man?'
what should I do? Kill myself?'
speak in purely materialistic terms,'
she objected. 'There is such a thing as moral
courage, and moral courage is
never without effect.'
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.'
waited for me to go on.
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.'
brushed her hand across her forehead in
a puzzled way, saying, 'Still, I do not
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.'
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.
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
'I am to
lie,' she said in steady,
rebellious tones; 'by speech and action to lie.'
Larsen had separated from Latimer and
was coming toward us. I was desperate.
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-'
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."
was a newspaper poem,' she said
happen to see the light in a
newspaper,' I replied, 'but not because the
magazine editors had been denied a
glimpse at it.
talking of Harris,' I said to Wolf
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.'
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
afraid,' she whispered, with a
shiver. 'I am so afraid.'
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.'
answered with a grateful little smile
that sent my heart pounding, and started to
descend the companion-stairs.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
hell are you up to?' he was
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.
sunstroke – what?' he
indigestion,' I retorted, and
continued my walk as if nothing untoward had
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
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
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
to say?' the other demanded
It was a
challenge, but Smoke refused to
what?' he asked so innocently that
Wolf Larsen was disconcerted, while the others
nothing,' Wolf Larsen said lamely. 'I
just thought you might want to register a kick.'
what?' asked the imperturbable
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.
ho!' the cry came down the open
bear?' Wolf Larsen called up.
it's a Russian,' suggested Latimer.
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.
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.'
accepted his offer, and he went on:
'In which event I'll lay ten to one there's
trouble breezing up.'
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.'
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
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.
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
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
the trouble you were so sure was
breezing up, Captain Larsen?' she asked gaily.
glanced at her, a moment's amusement
softening his features.
you expect? That they'd come
aboard and cut out throats?'
like that,' she confessed. 'You
understand, seal-hunters are so new and strange
to me that I am quite ready to
right, quite right. Your error is
that you failed to expect the worst.'
what can be worse than cutting our
throats?' she asked, with pretty, naive
our purses,' he answered. 'Man is
so made these days that his capacity for living
is determined by the money he
steals my purse steals
trash,"' she quoted.
steals my purse steals my right to
live,' was the reply, 'old saws to the contrary.
For he steals my bread and
meat and bed, and in so doing imperils my life.
There are not enough
soup-kitchens and bread-lines to go around, you
know, and when men have nothing
in their purses they usually die, and die
miserably – unless they are able to
fill their purses pretty speedily.'
fail to see that this steamer has
any designs on your purse.'
you will see,' he answered
not have long to wait. Having passed
several miles beyond our line of boats, the
Macedonia proceeded to lower her
own. We knew she carried fourteen boats to our
five (we were one-short through
the desertion of Wainwright), and she began
dropping them far to leeward of our
last boat, continued dropping them athwart our
course, and finished dropping
them far to windward of our first weather boat.
The hunting, for us, was
spoiled. There were no seals behind us, and
ahead of us the line of fourteen
boats, like a huge broom, swept the herd before
Our boats hunted across the two or three miles of water between them and the poi