"'O the blazing tropic night, when the wake's a welt of light That
holds the hot sky tame, And the steady forefoot snores through the
planet-powdered floors Where the scared whale flukes in flame. Her plates
are scarred by the sun, dear lass, And her ropes are taut with the
dew, For we're booming down on the old trail, our own trail, the
out trail, We're sagging south on the Long Trail - the trail that is
"Eh, Hump? How's it strike you?" he asked, after the due
pause which words and setting demanded.
I looked into his face. It was aglow with light, as the
sea itself, and the eyes were flashing in the starshine.
"It strikes me as remarkable, to say the least, that you should show
enthusiasm," I answered coldly.
"Why, man, it's living! it's life!" he cried.
"Which is a cheap thing and without value." I flung his words
He laughed, and it was the first time I had heard honest mirth in his
"Ah, I cannot get you to understand, cannot drive it into your head,
what a thing this life is. Of course life is valueless, except to
itself. And I can tell you that my life is pretty valuable just now -
to myself. It is beyond price, which you will acknowledge is a terrific
overrating, but which I cannot help, for it is the life that is in me that
makes the rating."
He appeared waiting for the words with which to express the thought that
was in him, and finally went on.
"Do you know, I am filled with a strange uplift; I feel as if all time
were echoing through me, as though all powers were mine. I know truth,
divine good from evil, right from wrong. My vision is clear and
far. I could almost believe in God. But," and his voice changed
and the light went out of his face, - "what is this condition in which I find
myself? this joy of living? this exultation of life? this inspiration, I may
well call it? It is what comes when there is nothing wrong with one's
digestion, when his stomach is in trim and his appetite has an edge, and all
goes well. It is the bribe for living, the champagne of the blood,
the effervescence of the ferment - that makes some men think
holy thoughts, and other men to see God or to create him when they cannot
see him. That is all, the drunkenness of life, the stirring and
crawling of the yeast, the babbling of the life that is insane with
consciousness that it is alive. And - bah! To-morrow I shall pay
for it as the drunkard pays. And I shall know that I must die, at sea
most likely, cease crawling of myself to be all a-crawl with the corruption
of the sea; to be fed upon, to be carrion, to yield up all the strength and
movement of my muscles that it 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 has gone out and it is a
He left me as suddenly as he had come, springing to the deck with the
weight and softness of a tiger. The Ghost ploughed on her way. I noted
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 deep-water sailor, from the waist of the ship,
lifted a rich tenor voice in the "Song of the Trade Wind":
"Oh, I am the wind the seamen love - I am steady, and strong, and
true; They follow my track by the clouds above, O'er the fathomless tropic
* * * * *
Through daylight and dark I follow the bark I keep like a hound on her
trail; I'm strongest at noon, yet under the moon, I stiffen the bunt of
Sometimes I think Wolf Larsen mad, or half-mad at least, what of his
strange moods and vagaries. At other times I take him for a great man,
a genius who has never arrived. And, finally, I am convinced that he is
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 is certainly an individualist of the most pronounced
type. Not only that, but he is very lonely. There is no
congeniality between him and the rest of the men aboard ship. His
tremendous virility and mental strength wall him apart. They are more
like children to him, even the hunters, and as children he treats them,
descending perforce to their level and playing with them as a man plays with
puppies. Or else he probes them with the cruel hand of a
vivisectionist, groping about in their mental processes and examining their
souls as though to see of what soul-stuff is made.
I have 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 am convinced that they are not real, that they are sometimes
experiments, but that in the main they are the habits of a pose or attitude
he has seen fit to take toward his fellow-men. I know, with the
possible exception of the incident of the dead mate, that I have not seen him
really angry; nor do I wish ever to see him in a genuine rage, when all the
force of him is called into play.
While on the question of vagaries, I shall tell what befell
Thomas Mugridge in the cabin, and at the same time complete an
incident upon which I have already touched once or twice. The
twelve o'clock dinner was over, one day, and I had just finished
putting the cabin in order, when Wolf Larsen and Thomas Mugridge
descended the companion stairs. Though the cook had a cubby-hole of a
state- room opening off from the cabin, in the cabin itself he had
never dared to linger or to be seen, and he flitted to and fro, once
or twice a day, a timid spectre.
"So you know how to play 'Nap,'" Wolf Larsen was saying in a pleased
sort of voice. "I might have guessed an Englishman would know. I
learned it myself in English ships."
Thomas Mugridge was beside himself, a blithering imbecile, so pleased
was he at chumming thus with the captain. The little airs he put on and
the painful striving to assume the easy carriage of a man born to a dignified
place in life would have been sickening had they not been ludicrous. He
quite ignored my presence, though I credited him with being simply unable to
see me. His pale, wishy- washy eyes were swimming like lazy summer
seas, though what blissful visions they beheld were beyond my
"Get the cards, Hump," Wolf Larsen ordered, as they took seats at the
table. "And bring out the cigars and the whisky you'll find in my
I returned with the articles in time to hear the Cockney hinting broadly
that there was a mystery about him, that he might be a gentleman's son gone
wrong or something or other; also, that he was a remittance man and was paid
to keep away from England - "p'yed 'ansomely, sir," was the way he put it;
"p'yed 'ansomely to sling my 'ook an' keep slingin' it."
I had brought the customary liquor glasses, but Wolf Larsen frowned,
shook his head, and signalled with his hands for me to bring the
tumblers. These he filled two-thirds full with undiluted whisky - "a
gentleman's drink?" quoth Thomas Mugridge, - and they clinked their glasses
to the glorious game of "Nap," lighted cigars, and fell to shuffling and
dealing the cards.
They played for money. They increased the amounts of the
bets. They drank whisky, they drank it neat, and I fetched more. I
do not know whether Wolf Larsen cheated or not, - a thing he
was thoroughly capable of doing, - but he won steadily. The cook
made repeated journeys to his bunk for money. Each time he
performed the journey with greater swagger, but he never brought more than
a few dollars at a time. He grew maudlin, familiar, could hardly
see the cards or sit upright. As a preliminary to another journey
to his bunk, he hooked Wolf Larsen's buttonhole with a greasy forefinger
and vacuously proclaimed and reiterated, "I got money, I got money, I tell
yer, an' I'm a gentleman's son."
Wolf Larsen was unaffected by the drink, yet he drank glass for glass,
and if anything his glasses were fuller. There was no change in
him. He did not appear even amused at the other's antics.
In the end, with loud protestations that he could lose like a gentleman,
the cook's last money was staked on the game - and lost. Whereupon he leaned
his head on his hands and wept. Wolf Larsen looked curiously at him, as
though about to probe and vivisect him, then changed his mind, as from the
foregone conclusion that there was nothing there to probe.
"Hump," he said to me, elaborately polite, "kindly take Mr. Mugridge's
arm and help him up on deck. He is not feeling very well."
"And tell Johnson to douse him with a few buckets of salt water," he
added, in a lower tone for my ear alone.
I left Mr. Mugridge on deck, in the hands of a couple of
grinning sailors who had been told off for the purpose. Mr. Mugridge
was sleepily spluttering that he was a gentleman's son. But as
I descended the companion stairs to clear the table I heard him shriek as
the first bucket of water struck him.
Wolf Larsen was counting his winnings.
"One hundred and eighty-five dollars even," he said aloud.
"Just as I thought. "The beggar came aboard without a cent."
"And what you have won is mine, sir," I said boldly.
He favoured me with a quizzical smile. "Hump, I have studied
some grammar in my time, and I think your tenses are tangled.
'Was mine,' you should have said, not 'is mine.'"
"It is a question, not of grammar, but of ethics," I answered.
It was possibly a minute before he spoke.
"D'ye know, Hump," he said, with a slow seriousness which had in it an
indefinable strain of sadness, "that this is the first time I have heard the
word 'ethics' in the mouth of a man. You and I are the only men on this
ship who know its meaning."
"At one time in my life," he continued, after another pause, "I dreamed
that I might some day talk with men who used such language, that I might lift
myself out of the place in life in which I had been born, and hold
conversation and mingle with men who talked about just such things as
ethics. And this is the first time I have ever heard the word
pronounced. Which is all by the way, for you are wrong. It is a
question neither of grammar nor ethics, but of fact."
"I understand," I said. "The fact is that you have the money."
His face brightened. He seemed pleased at my perspicacity.
"But it is avoiding the real question," I continued, "which is one
"Ah," he remarked, with a wry pucker of his mouth, "I see you
still believe in such things as right and wrong."
"But don't you? - at all?" I demanded.
"Not the least bit. Might is right, and that is all there is
to it. Weakness is wrong. Which is a very poor way of saying that
it is good for oneself to be strong, and evil for oneself to be weak - or
better yet, it is pleasurable to be strong, because of the profits; painful
to be weak, because of the penalties. Just now the possession of this
money is a pleasurable thing. It is good for one to possess it.
Being able to possess it, I wrong myself and the life that is in me if I give
it to you and forego the pleasure of possessing it."
"But you wrong me by withholding it," I objected.
"Not at all. One man cannot wrong another man. He can only
wrong himself. As I see it, I do wrong always when I consider
the interests of others. Don't you see? How can two particles of
the yeast wrong each other by striving to devour each other? It
is their inborn heritage to strive to devour, and to strive not to
be devoured. When they depart from this they sin."
"Then you don't believe in altruism?" I asked.
He received the word as if it had a familiar ring, though he pondered it
thoughtfully. "Let me see, it means something about cooperation,
"Well, in a way there has come to be a sort of connection," I answered
unsurprised by this time at such gaps in his vocabulary, which, like his
knowledge, was the acquirement of a self-read, self-educated man, whom no one
had directed in his studies, and who had thought much and talked little or
not at all. "An altruistic act is an act performed for the welfare of
others. It is unselfish, as opposed to an act performed for self, which
He nodded his head. "Oh, yes, I remember it now. I ran across
it in Spencer."
"Spencer!" I cried. "Have you read him?"
"Not very much," was his confession. "I understood quite a
good deal of FIRST PRINCIPLES, but his BIOLOGY took the wind out of
my sails, and his PSYCHOLOGY left me butting around in the doldrums for
many a day. I honestly could not understand what he was driving
at. I put it down to mental deficiency on my part, but since then I
have decided that it was for want of preparation. I had no proper
basis. Only Spencer and myself know how hard I hammered. But I
did get something out of his DATA OF ETHICS. There's where I ran across
'altruism,' and I remember now how it was used."
I wondered what this man could have got from such a work.
Spencer I remembered enough to know that altruism was imperative to
his ideal of highest conduct. Wolf Larsen, evidently, had sifted
the great philosopher's teachings, rejecting and selecting according
to his needs and desires.
"What else did you run across?" I asked.
His brows drew in slightly with the mental effort of suitably phrasing
thoughts which he had never before put into speech. I felt an elation
of spirit. I was groping into his soul-stuff as he made a practice of
groping in the soul-stuff of others. I was exploring virgin
territory. A strange, a terribly strange, region was unrolling itself
before my eyes.
"In as few words as possible," he began, "Spencer puts it something like
this: First, a man must act for his own benefit - to do this is to be
moral and good. Next, he must act for the benefit of
his children. And third, he must act for the benefit of his
"And the highest, finest, right conduct," I interjected, "is that act
which benefits at the same time the man, his children, and his race."
"I wouldn't stand for that," he replied. "Couldn't see
the necessity for it, nor the common sense. I cut out the race and
the children. I would sacrifice nothing for them. It's just so
much slush and sentiment, and you must see it yourself, at least for
one who does not believe in eternal life. With immortality before
me, altruism would be a paying business proposition. I might
elevate my soul to all kinds of altitudes. But with nothing eternal
before me but death, given for a brief spell this yeasty crawling
and squirming which is called life, why, it would be immoral for me
to perform any act that was a sacrifice. Any sacrifice that makes
me lose one crawl or squirm is foolish, - and not only foolish, for it is
a wrong against myself and a wicked thing. I must not lose one crawl or
squirm if I am to get the most out of the ferment. Nor will the eternal
movelessness that is coming to me be made easier or harder by the sacrifices
or selfishnesses of the time when I was yeasty and acrawl."
"Then you are an individualist, a materialist, and, logically,
"Big words," he smiled. "But what is a hedonist?"
He nodded agreement when I had given the definition. "And you
are also," I continued, "a man one could not trust in the least
thing where it was possible for a selfish interest to intervene?"
"Now you're beginning to understand," he said, brightening.
"You are a man utterly without what the world calls morals?"
"A man of whom to be always afraid - "
"That's the way to put it."
"As one is afraid of a snake, or a tiger, or a shark?"
"Now you know me," he said. "And you know me as I am
generally known. Other men call me 'Wolf.'"
"You are a sort of monster," I added audaciously, "a Caliban who has
pondered Setebos, and who acts as you act, in idle moments, by whim and
His brow clouded at the allusion. He did not understand, and
I quickly learned that he did not know the poem.
"I'm just reading Browning," he confessed, "and it's pretty tough. I
haven't got very far along, and as it is I've about lost my bearings."
Not to he 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 sureness 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 vigour that received respect,
while not accorded conviction.
Time passed. Supper was at hand and the table not laid. I
became restless and anxious, and when Thomas Mugridge glared down
the companion-way, sick and angry of countenance, I prepared to go about
my duties. But Wolf Larsen cried out to him:
"Cooky, you've got to hustle to-night. I'm busy with Hump,
and you'll do the best you can without him."
And again the unprecedented was established. That night I sat
at table with the captain and the hunters, while Thomas Mugridge waited on
us and washed the dishes afterward - a whim, a Caliban- mood of Wolf
Larsen's, and one I foresaw would bring me trouble. In the meantime we talked
and talked, much to the disgust of the hunters, who could not understand a
Three days of rest, three blessed days of rest, are what I had with Wolf
Larsen, eating at the cabin table and doing nothing but discuss life,
literature, and the universe, the while Thomas Mugridge fumed and raged and
did my work as well as his own.
"Watch out for squalls, is all I can say to you," was Louis's warning,
given during a spare half-hour on deck while Wolf Larsen was engaged in
straightening out a row among the hunters.
"Ye can't tell what'll be happenin'," Louis went on, in response to my
query for more definite information. "The man's as contrary as air
currents or water currents. You can never guess the ways iv him.
'Tis just as you're thinkin' you know him and are makin' a favourable slant
along him, that he whirls around, dead ahead and comes howlin' down upon you
and a-rippin' all iv your fine-weather sails to rags."
So I was not altogether surprised when the squall foretold by
Louis smote me. We had been having a heated discussion, - upon life,
of course, - and, grown over-bold, 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 were ablaze. There was no clearness or sanity in them - nothing
but the terrific rage of a madman. It was the wolf in him that I saw,
and a mad wolf at that.
He sprang for me with a half-roar, gripping my arm. I had
steeled myself to brazen it out, though I was trembling inwardly; but
the enormous strength of the man was too much for my fortitude. He
had gripped me by the biceps with his single hand, and when that
grip tightened I wilted and shrieked aloud. My feet went out from
under me. I simply could not stand upright and endure the agony.
The muscles refused their duty. The pain was too great. My biceps
was being crushed to a pulp.
He seemed to recover himself, for a lucid 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
I finally crawled to my feet and ascended the companion stairs. Fair
weather was over, and there was nothing left but to return to the
galley. My left arm was numb, as though paralysed, and days passed
before I could use it, while weeks went by before the last stiffness and pain
went out of it. And he had done nothing but put his hand upon my arm
and squeeze. There had been no wrenching or jerking. He had just
closed his hand with a steady pressure. What he might have done I did
not fully realize till next day, when he put his head into the galley, and,
as a sign of renewed friendliness, asked me how my arm was getting on.
"It might have been worse," he smiled.
I was peeling potatoes. He picked one up from the pan. It
was fair-sized, firm, and unpeeled. He closed his hand upon
it, squeezed, and the potato squirted out between his fingers in
mushy streams. The pulpy remnant he dropped back into the pan and
turned away, and I had a sharp vision of how it might have fared with
me had the monster put his real strength upon me.
But the three days' rest was good in spite of it all, for it had given
my knee the very chance it needed. It felt much better, the swelling
had materially decreased, and the cap seemed descending into its proper
place. Also, the three days' rest brought the trouble I had
foreseen. It was plainly Thomas Mugridge's intention to make me pay for
those three days. He treated me vilely, cursed me continually, and
heaped his own work upon me. He even ventured to raise his fist to me,
but I was becoming animal-like myself, and I snarled in his face so terribly
that it must have frightened him back. It is no pleasant picture I can
conjure up of myself, Humphrey Van Weyden, in that noisome ship's galley,
crouched in a corner over my task, my face raised to the face of the
creature about to strike me, my lips lifted and snarling like a dog's,
my eyes gleaming with fear and helplessness and the courage that comes of
fear and helplessness. I do not like the picture. It reminds me
too strongly of a rat in a trap. I do not care to think of it; but it
was elective, for the threatened blow did not descend.
Thomas Mugridge backed away, glaring as hatefully and viciously as I
glared. A pair of beasts is what we were, penned together and showing
our teeth. He was a coward, afraid to strike me because I had not
quailed sufficiently in advance; so he chose a new way to intimidate
me. There was only one galley knife that, as a knife, amounted to
anything. This, through many years of service and wear, had acquired a
long, lean blade. It was unusually cruel- looking, and at first I had
shuddered every time I used it. The cook borrowed a stone from Johansen
and proceeded to sharpen the knife. He did it with great ostentation,
glancing significantly at me the while. He whetted it up and down all
day long. Every odd moment he could find he had the knife and stone out
and was whetting away. The steel acquired a razor edge. He tried
it with the ball of his thumb or across the nail. He shaved hairs from
the back of his hand, glanced along the edge with microscopic acuteness,
and found, or feigned that he found, always, a slight inequality in its edge
somewhere. Then he would put it on the stone again and whet, whet,
whet, till I could have laughed aloud, it was so very ludicrous.
It was also serious, for I learned that he was capable of using it, that
under all his cowardice there was a courage of cowardice, like mine, that
would impel him to do the very thing his whole nature protested against doing
and was afraid of doing. "Cooky's sharpening his knife for Hump," was
being whispered about among the sailors, and some of them twitted him about
it. This he took in good part, and was really pleased, nodding his head
with direful foreknowledge and mystery, until George Leach, the erstwhile
cabin- boy, ventured some rough pleasantry on the subject.
Now it happened that Leach was one of the sailors told off to
douse Mugridge after his game of cards with the captain. Leach
had evidently done his task with a thoroughness that Mugridge had
not forgiven, for words followed and evil names involving
smirched ancestries. Mugridge menaced with the knife he was sharpening
for me. Leach laughed and hurled more of his Telegraph
Hill Billingsgate, and before either he or I knew what had happened,
his right arm 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 defence. But Leach took it quite
calmly, though blood was spouting upon the deck as generously as water from a
"I'm goin' to get you, Cooky," he said, "and I'll get you hard. And I
won't be in no hurry about it. You'll be without that knife when I come
So saying, he turned and walked quietly forward. Mugridge's
face was livid with fear at what he had done and at what he might
expect sooner or later from the man he had stabbed. But his
demeanour 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
Several days went by, the Ghost still foaming down the trades, and I
could swear I saw madness growing in Thomas Mugridge's eyes. And I
confess that I became afraid, very much afraid. Whet, whet, whet, it
went all day long. The look in his eyes as he felt the keen edge and
glared at me was positively carnivorous. I was afraid to turn my
shoulder to him, and when I left the galley I went out backwards - to the
amusement of the sailors and hunters, who made a point of gathering in groups
to witness my exit. The strain was too great. I sometimes thought
my mind would give way under it - a meet thing on this ship of madmen and
brutes. Every hour, every minute of my existence was in jeopardy.
I was a human soul in distress, and yet no soul, fore or aft, betrayed
sufficient sympathy to come to my aid. At times I thought of throwing
myself on the mercy of Wolf Larsen, but the vision of the mocking devil
in his eyes that questioned life and sneered at it would come strong upon
me and compel me to refrain. At other times I seriously contemplated
suicide, and the whole force of my hopeful philosophy was required to keep me
from going over the side in the darkness of night.
Several times Wolf Larsen tried to inveigle me into discussion, but I
gave him short answers and eluded him. Finally, he commanded me to
resume my seat at the cabin table for a time and let the cook do my
work. Then I spoke frankly, telling him what I was enduring from Thomas
Mugridge because of the three days of favouritism which had been shown
me. Wolf Larsen regarded me with smiling eyes.
"So you're afraid, eh?" he sneered.
"Yes," I said defiantly and honestly, "I am afraid."
"That's the way with you fellows," he cried, half
angrily, "sentimentalizing about your immortal souls and afraid to die.
At sight of a sharp knife and a cowardly Cockney the clinging of life to
life overcomes all your fond foolishness. Why, my dear fellow, you will
live for ever. You are a god, and God cannot be killed. Cooky cannot
hurt you. You are sure of your resurrection. What's there to be
"You have eternal life before you. You are a millionaire
in immortality, and a millionaire whose fortune cannot be lost,
whose fortune is less perishable than the stars and as lasting as space or
time. It is impossible for you to diminish your principal. Immortality
is a thing without beginning or end. Eternity is eternity, and though
you die here and now you will go on living somewhere else and
hereafter. And it is all very beautiful, this shaking off of the flesh
and soaring of the imprisoned spirit. Cooky cannot hurt you. He can
only give you a boost on the path you eternally must tread.
"Or, if you do not wish to be boosted just yet, why not
boost Cooky? According to your ideas, he, too, must be an
immortal millionaire. You cannot bankrupt him. His paper will
always circulate at par. You cannot diminish the length of his living
by killing him, for he is without beginning or end. He's bound to
go on living, somewhere, somehow. Then boost him. Stick a knife
in him and let his spirit free. As it is, it's in a nasty prison,
and you'll do him only a kindness by breaking down the door. And
who knows? - it may be a very beautiful spirit that will go soaring
up into the blue from that ugly carcass. Boost him along, and
I'll promote you to his place, and he's getting forty-five dollars
It was plain that I could look for no help or mercy from
Wolf Larsen. Whatever was to be done I must do for myself; and out
of the courage of fear I evolved the plan of fighting Thomas Mugridge with
his own weapons. I borrowed a whetstone from Johansen. Louis, the
boat-steerer, had already begged me for condensed milk and sugar. The
lazarette, where such delicacies were stored, was situated beneath the cabin
floor. Watching my chance, I stole five cans of the milk, and that
night, when it was Louis's watch on deck, I traded them with him for a dirk
as lean and cruel-looking as Thomas Mugridge's vegetable knife. It was
rusty and dull, but I turned the grindstone while Louis gave it an
edge. I slept more soundly than usual that night.
Next morning, after breakfast, Thomas Mugridge began his whet, whet,
whet. I glanced warily at him, for I was on my knees taking the ashes
from the stove. When I returned from throwing them overside, he was
talking to Harrison, whose honest yokel's face was filled with fascination
"Yes," Mugridge was saying, "an' wot does 'is worship do but give me two
years in Reading. But blimey if I cared. The other mug was fixed
plenty. Should 'a seen 'im. Knife just like this. I
stuck it in, like into soft butter, an' the w'y 'e squealed was better'n a
tu-penny gaff." He shot a glance in my direction to see if I was taking
it in, and went on. "'I didn't mean it Tommy,' 'e was snifflin'; 'so
'elp me Gawd, I didn't mean it!' "'I'll fix yer bloody well right,' I
sez, an' kept right after 'im. I cut 'im in ribbons, that's wot I did,
an' 'e a-squealin' all the time. Once 'e got 'is 'and on the knife an'
tried to 'old it. 'Ad 'is fingers around it, but I pulled it through,
cuttin' to the bone. O, 'e was a sight, I can tell yer."
A call from the mate interrupted the gory narrative, 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 favoured me with a vicious stare.
Still calmly, though my heart was going pitapat, 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, whet, till
the news of it spread abroad and half the ship's company was crowding the
galley doors to see the sight.
Encouragement and advice were freely tendered, and Jock Horner,
the quiet, self-spoken hunter who looked as though he would not harm
a mouse, advised me to leave the ribs alone and to thrust upward for the
abdomen, at the same time giving what he called the "Spanish twist" to the
blade. Leach, his bandaged arm prominently to the fore, begged me to
leave a few remnants of the cook for him; and Wolf Larsen paused once or
twice at the break of the poop to glance curiously at what must have been to
him a stirring and crawling of the yeasty thing he knew as life.
And I make free to say that for the time being life assumed the same
sordid values to me. There was nothing pretty about it, nothing divine
- only two cowardly moving things that sat whetting steel upon stone, and a
group of other moving things, cowardly and otherwise, that looked on.
Half of them, I am sure, were anxious to see us shedding each other's
blood. It would have been entertainment. And I do not think there
was one who would have interfered had we closed in a death-struggle.
On the other hand, the whole thing was laughable and childish. Whet,
whet, whet, - Humphrey Van Weyden sharpening his knife in a ship's galley and
trying its edge with his thumb! Of all situations this was the most
inconceivable. I know that my own kind could not have believed it
possible. I had not been called "Sissy" Van Weyden all my days without
reason, and that "Sissy" Van Weyden should be capable of doing this thing was
a revelation to Humphrey Van Weyden, who knew not whether to be exultant
But nothing happened. At the end of two hours Thomas Mugridge
put away knife and stone and held out his hand.
"Wot's the good of mykin' a 'oly show of ourselves for them mugs?" he
demanded. "They don't love us, an' bloody well glad they'd be a-seein'
us cuttin' our throats. Yer not 'arf bad, 'Ump! You've got spunk,
as you Yanks s'y, an' I like yer in a w'y. So come on an' shyke."
Coward that I might be, I was less a coward than he. It was
a distinct victory I had gained, and I refused to forego any of it
by shaking his detestable hand.
"All right," he said pridelessly, "tyke it or leave it, I'll like yer
none the less for it." And to save his face he turned fiercely upon the
onlookers. "Get outa my galley-doors, you bloomin' swabs!"
This command was reinforced by a steaming kettle of water, and at sight
of it the sailors scrambled out of the way. This was a sort of victory
for Thomas Mugridge, and enabled him to accept more gracefully the defeat I
had given him, though, of course, he was too discreet to attempt to drive the
"I see Cooky's finish," I heard Smoke say to Horner.
"You bet," was the reply. "Hump runs the galley from now on,
and Cooky pulls in his horns."
Mugridge heard and shot a swift glance at me, but I gave no sign that
the conversation had reached me. I had not thought my victory was so
far-reaching and complete, but I resolved to let go nothing I had
gained. As the days went by, Smoke's prophecy was verified. The Cockney
became more humble and slavish to me than even to Wolf Larsen. I
mistered him and sirred him no longer, washed no more greasy pots, and peeled
no more potatoes. I did my own work, and my own work only, and when and
in what fashion I saw fit. Also I carried the dirk in a sheath at my
hip, sailor-fashion, and maintained toward Thomas Mugridge a constant
attitude which was composed of equal parts of domineering, insult, and
My intimacy with Wolf Larsen increases - if by intimacy may be denoted
those relations which exist between master and man, or, better yet, between
king and jester. I am to him no more than a toy, and he values me no
more than a child values a toy. My function is to amuse, and so long as
I amuse all goes well; but let him become bored, or let him have one of his
black moods come upon him, and at once I am relegated from cabin table to
galley, while, at the same time, I am fortunate to escape with my life and a
The loneliness of the man is slowly being borne in upon me.
There is not a man aboard but hates or fears him, nor is there a man
whom he does not despise. He seems consuming with the tremendous
power that is in him and that seems never to have found
adequate expression in works. He is as Lucifer would be, were that
proud spirit banished to a society of soulless, Tomlinsonian ghosts.
This loneliness is bad enough in itself, but, to make it worse, he is
oppressed by the primal melancholy of the race. Knowing him, I review
the old Scandinavian myths with clearer understanding.
The white-skinned, fair-haired savages who created that terrible pantheon
were of the same fibre as he. The frivolity of the laughter-loving
Latins is no part of him. When he laughs it is from a humour that is
nothing else than ferocious. But he laughs rarely; he is too often
sad. And it is a sadness as deep-reaching as the roots of the
race. It is the race heritage, the sadness which has made the race
sober-minded, clean-lived and fanatically moral, and which, in this latter
connection, has culminated among the English in the Reformed Church and Mrs.
In point of fact, the chief vent to this primal melancholy has
been religion in its more agonizing forms. But the compensations
of such religion are denied Wolf Larsen. His brutal materialism
will not permit it. So, when his blue moods come on, nothing
remains for him, but to be devilish. Were he not so terrible a man,
I could sometimes feel sorry for him, as instance three mornings ago, when
I went into his stateroom to fill his water-bottle and came unexpectedly upon
him. He did not see me. His head was buried in his hands, and his
shoulders were heaving convulsively as with sobs. He seemed torn by
some mighty grief. As I softly withdrew I could hear him groaning,
"God! God! God!" Not that he was calling upon God; it was a
mere expletive, but it came from his soul.
At dinner he asked the hunters for a remedy for headache, and
by evening, strong man that he was, he was half-blind and reeling about
"I've never been sick in my life, Hump," he said, as I guided him to his
room. "Nor did I ever have a headache except the time my head was
healing after having been laid open for six inches by a capstan-bar."
For three days this blinding headache lasted, and he suffered as wild
animals suffer, as it seemed the way on ship to suffer, without plaint,
without sympathy, utterly alone.
This morning, however, on entering his state-room to make the bed and
put things in order, I found him well and hard at work. Table and bunk
were littered with designs and calculations. On a large transparent
sheet, compass and square in hand, he was copying what appeared to be a scale
of some sort or other.
"Hello, Hump," he greeted me genially. "I'm just finishing
the finishing touches. Want to see it work?"
"But what is it?" I asked.
"A labour-saving device for mariners, navigation reduced to kindergarten
simplicity," he answered gaily. "From to-day a child will be able to
navigate a ship. No more long-winded calculations. All you need is one
star in the sky on a 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 to put it on a star, revolve
the scale till it is opposite those figures on the map underneath, and
presto! there you are, the ship's precise location!"
There was a ring of triumph in his voice, and his eyes, clear blue this
morning as the sea, were sparkling with light.
"You must be well up in mathematics," I said. "Where did you go
"Never saw the inside of one, worse luck," was the answer. "I
had to dig it out for myself."
"And why do you think I have made this thing?" he
demanded, abruptly. "Dreaming to leave footprints on the sands of
time?" He laughed one of his horrible mocking laughs. "Not at
all. To get it patented, to make money from it, to revel in piggishness
with all night in while other men do the work. That's my
purpose. Also, I have enjoyed working it out."
"The creative joy," I murmured.
"I guess that's what it ought to be called. Which is another
way of expressing the joy of life in that it is alive, the triumph
of movement over matter, of the quick over the dead, the pride of
the yeast because it is yeast and crawls."
I threw up my hands with helpless disapproval of his
inveterate materialism and went about making the bed. He continued
copying lines and figures upon the transparent scale. It was a
task requiring the utmost nicety and precision, and I could not but admire
the way he tempered his strength to the fineness and delicacy of the
When I had finished the bed, I caught myself looking at him in
a fascinated sort of way. He was certainly a handsome man
- beautiful in the masculine sense. And again, with
never-failing wonder, I remarked the total lack of viciousness, or
wickedness, or sinfulness in his face. It was the face, I am convinced,
of a man who did no wrong. And by this I do not wish to be
misunderstood. What I mean is that it was the face of a man who either did
nothing contrary to the dictates of his conscience, or who had
no conscience. I am inclined 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 both to 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 amongst the men who hunted seals?
My curiosity burst from me in a flood of speech.
"Why is it that you have not done great things in this world?
With the power that is yours you might have risen to any
height. Unpossessed of conscience or moral instinct, you might
have mastered the world, broken it to your hand. And yet here you
are, at the top of your life, where diminishing and dying begin, living an
obscure and sordid existence, hunting sea animals for the satisfaction of
woman's vanity and love of decoration, revelling in a piggishness, to use
your own words, which is anything and everything except splendid. Why,
with all that wonderful strength, have you not done something? There
was nothing to stop you, nothing that could stop you. What was
wrong? Did you lack ambition? Did you fall under
temptation? What was the matter? What was the matter?"
He had lifted his eyes to me at the commencement of my outburst, and
followed me complacently until I had done and stood before him breathless and
dismayed. He waited a moment, as though seeking where to begin, and
"Hump, do you know the parable of the sower who went forth to sow? If
you will remember, some of the seed fell upon stony places, where there was
not much earth, and forthwith they sprung up because they had no deepness of
earth. And when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had
no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns
sprung up and choked them."
"Well?" I said.
"Well?" he queried, half petulantly. "It was not well. I was
one of those seeds."
He dropped his head to the scale and resumed the copying.
I finished my work and had opened the door to leave, when he spoke
"Hump, if you will look on the west coast of the map of Norway you will
see an indentation called Romsdal Fiord. I was born within a hundred
miles of that stretch of water. But I was not born Norwegian. I
am a Dane. My father and mother were Danes, and how they ever came to
that bleak bight of land on the west coast I do not know. I never
heard. Outside of that there is nothing mysterious. They were
poor people and unlettered. They came of generations of poor unlettered
people - peasants of the sea who sowed their sons on the waves as has been
their custom since time began. There is no more to tell."
"But there is," I objected. "It is still obscure to me."
"What can I tell you?" he demanded, with a recrudescence
of fierceness. "Of the meagreness 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 returned
and killed when a man's strength came to me, only the lines of my
life were cast at the time in other places. I did return, not long
ago, but unfortunately the skippers were dead, all but one, a mate in the
old days, a skipper when I met him, and when I left him a cripple who would
never walk again."
"But you who read Spencer and Darwin and have never seen the inside of a
school, how did you learn to read and write?" I queried.
"In the English merchant service. Cabin-boy at twelve, ship's
boy at fourteen, ordinary seamen at sixteen, able seaman at seventeen, and
cock of the fo'c'sle, infinite ambition and infinite loneliness, receiving
neither help nor sympathy, I did it all for myself - navigation, mathematics,
science, literature, and what not. And of what use has it been?
Master and owner of a ship at the top of my life, as you say, when I am
beginning to diminish and die. Paltry, isn't it? And when the sun
was up I was scorched, and because I had no root I withered away."
"But history tells of slaves who rose to the purple," I chided.
"And history tells of opportunities that came to the slaves who rose to
the purple," he answered grimly. "No man makes opportunity. All
the great men ever did was to know it when it came to them. The
Corsican knew. I have dreamed as greatly as the Corsican. I
should have known the opportunity, but it never came. The thorns sprung up
and choked me. And, Hump, I can tell you that you know more about me
than any living man, except my own brother."
"And what is he? And where is he?"
"Master of the steamship Macedonia, seal-hunter," was the answer. "We
will meet him most probably on the Japan coast. Men call him 'Death'
"Death Larsen!" I involuntarily cried. "Is he like you?"
"Hardly. He is a lump of an animal without any head. He has
all my - my - "
"Brutishness," I suggested.
"Yes, - thank you for the word, - all my brutishness, but he
can scarcely read or write."
"And he has never philosophized on life," I added.
"No," Wolf Larsen answered, with an indescribable air of sadness. "And
he is all the happier for leaving life alone. He is too busy living it
to think about it. My mistake was in ever opening the books."
The Ghost has attained the southernmost point of the arc she
is describing across the Pacific, and is already beginning to edge away to
the west and north toward some lone island, it is rumoured, where she will
fill her water-casks before proceeding to the season's hunt along the coast
of Japan. The hunters have experimented and practised with their rifles
and shotguns till they are satisfied, and the boat-pullers and steerers have
made their spritsails, bound the oars and rowlocks in leather and sennit
so that they will make no noise when creeping on the seals, and put their
boats in apple-pie order - to use Leach's homely phrase.
His arm, by the way, has healed nicely, though the scar will remain all
his life. Thomas Mugridge lives in mortal fear of him, and is afraid to
venture on deck after dark. There are two or three standing quarrels in
the forecastle. Louis tells me that the gossip of the sailors finds its
way aft, and that two of the telltales have been badly beaten by their
mates. He shakes his head dubiously over the outlook for the man
Johnson, who is boat- puller in the same boat with him. Johnson has
been guilty of speaking his mind too freely, and has collided two or three
times with Wolf Larsen over the pronunciation of his name. Johansen
he thrashed on the amidships deck the other night, since which time the
mate has called him by his proper name. But of course it is out of the
question that Johnson should thrash Wolf Larsen.
Louis has also given me additional information about Death Larsen, which
tallies with the captain's brief description. We may expect to meet
Death Larsen on the Japan coast. "And look out for squalls," is Louis's
prophecy, "for they hate one another like the wolf whelps they are."
Death Larsen is in command of the only sealing steamer in the fleet, the
Macedonia, which carries fourteen boats, whereas the rest of 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 blackbirding and open piracy.
Yet I cannot but believe for I have never yet caught him in a lie,
while he has a cyclopaedic knowledge of sealing and the men of the sealing
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
he settled and the survivors may toss the non-survivors overboard
and arrange a story as to how the missing men were lost at sea.
I think even the hunters are appalled at his cold-bloodedness. Wicked men
though they be, they are certainly very much afraid of him.
Thomas Mugridge is cur-like in his subjection to me, while I go about in
secret dread of him. His is the courage of fear, - a strange thing I
know well of myself, - and at any moment it may master the fear and impel him
to the taking of my life. My knee is much better, though it often aches
for long periods, and the stiffness is gradually leaving the arm which Wolf
Larsen squeezed. Otherwise I am in splendid condition, feel that I am in
splendid condition. My muscles are growing harder and increasing in
size. My hands, however, are a spectacle for grief. They have
a parboiled appearance, are afflicted with hang-nails, while the nails are
broken and discoloured, and the edges of the quick seem to be assuming a
fungoid sort of growth. Also, I am suffering from boils, due to the
diet, most likely, for I was never afflicted in this manner before.
I was amused, a couple of evenings back, by seeing Wolf Larsen reading
the Bible, a copy of which, after the futile search for one at the beginning
of the voyage, had been found in the dead mate's sea-chest. I wondered
what Wolf Larsen could get from it, and he read aloud to me from
Ecclesiastes. I could imagine he was speaking the thoughts of his own
mind as he read to me, and his voice, reverberating deeply and mournfully in
the confined cabin, charmed and held me. He may be uneducated, but he
certainly knows how to express the significance of the written word. I
can hear him now, as I shall always hear him, the primal melancholy
vibrant in his voice as he read:
"I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure
of kings and of the provinces; I gat me men singers and women singers, and
the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all
"So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me
in Jerusalem; also my wisdom returned with me.
"Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought and on the
labour that I had laboured to do; and behold, all was vanity and vexation of
spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
"All things come alike to all; there is one event to the righteous and
to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that
sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not; as is the good, so is the
sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.
"This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun,
that there is one event unto all; yea, also the heart of the sons of
men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live,
and after that they go to the dead.
"For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope; for a living
dog is better than a dead lion.
"For the living know that they shall die; but the dead know
not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them
"Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished;
neither have they any more a portion for ever in anything that is done under
"There you have it, Hump," he said, closing the book upon his finger
and looking up at me. "The Preacher who was king over Israel in
Jerusalem thought as I think. You call me a pessimist. Is not this
pessimism of the blackest? - 'All is vanity and vexation of spirit,' 'There
is no profit under the sun,' 'There is one event unto all,' to the fool and
the wise, the clean and the unclean, the sinner and the saint, and that event
is death, and an evil thing, he says. For the Preacher loved life, and
did not want to die, saying, 'For a living dog is better than a dead
lion.' He preferred the vanity and vexation to the silence and
unmovableness of the grave. And so I. To crawl is piggish; but to
not crawl, to be as the clod and rock, is loathsome to contemplate. It
is loathsome to the life that is in me, the very essence of which
is movement, the power of movement, and the consciousness of the power of
movement. Life itself is unsatisfaction, but to look ahead to death is
"You are worse off than Omar," I said. "He, at least, after
the customary agonizing of youth, found content and made of
his materialism a joyous thing."
"Who was Omar?" Wolf Larsen asked, and I did no more work that day, nor
the next, nor the next.
In his random reading he had never chanced upon the Rubeiyet, 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 was well- nigh
I was interested as to which quatrain he would like best, and was not
surprised when he hit upon the one born of an instant's irritability, and
quite at variance with the Persian's complacent philosophy and genial code of
"What, without asking, hither hurried WHENCE? And, without asking,
WHITHER hurried hence! Oh, many a Cup of this forbidden Wine Must drown
the memory of that insolence!"
"Great!" Wolf Larsen cried. "Great! That's the
keynote. Insolence! He could not have used a better word."
In vain I objected and denied. He deluged me, overwhelmed me
"It's not the nature of life to be otherwise. Life, when it
knows that it must cease living, will always rebel. It cannot
help itself. The Preacher found life and the works of life all a
vanity and vexation, an evil thing; but death, the ceasing to be able
to be vain and vexed, he found an eviler thing. Through chapter
after chapter he is worried by the one event that cometh to all alike. So
Omar, so I, so you, even you, for you rebelled against dying when Cooky
sharpened a knife for you. You were afraid to die; the life that was in
you, that composes you, that is greater than you, did not want to die.
You have talked of the instinct of immortality. I talk of the instinct
of life, which is to live, and which, when death looms near and large,
masters the instinct, so called, of immortality. It mastered it in you
(you cannot deny it), because a crazy Cockney cook sharpened a knife.
"You are afraid of him now. You are afraid of me. You cannot
deny it. If I should catch you by the throat, thus," - his hand
was about my throat and my breath was shut off, - "and began to press the
life out of you thus, and thus, your instinct of immortality will go
glimmering, and your instinct of life, which is longing for life, will
flutter up, and you will struggle to save yourself. Eh? I see the fear
of death in your eyes. You beat the air with your arms. You exert
all your puny strength to struggle to live. Your hand is clutching my
arm, lightly it feels as a butterfly resting there. Your chest is
heaving, your tongue protruding, your skin turning dark, your eyes
swimming. 'To live! To live! To live!' you are crying; and
you are crying to live here and now, not hereafter. You doubt your
immortality, eh? Ha! ha! You are not sure of it. You won't
chance it. This life only you are certain is real. Ah, it is
growing dark and darker. It is the darkness of death, the ceasing to
be, the ceasing to feel, the ceasing to move, that is gathering about you,
descending upon you, rising around you. Your eyes are becoming
set. They are glazing. My voice sounds faint and far. You
cannot see my face. And still you struggle in my grip. You kick
with your legs. Your body draws itself up in knots like a
snake's. Your chest heaves and strains. To live! To live!
To live - "
I heard no more. Consciousness was blotted out by the darkness
he had so graphically described, and when I came to myself I was lying on
the floor and he was smoking a cigar and regarding me thoughtfully with that
old familiar light of curiosity in his eyes.
"Well, have I convinced you?" he demanded. "Here take a drink
of this. I want to ask you some questions."
I rolled my head negatively on the floor. "Your arguments are
too - er - forcible," I managed to articulate, at cost of great pain to my
"You'll be all right in half-an-hour," he assured me. "And
I promise I won't use any more physical demonstrations. Get up
now. You can sit on a chair."
And, toy that I was of this monster, the discussion of Omar and
the Preacher was resumed. And half the night we sat up over it.
The last twenty-four hours have witnessed a carnival of brutality. From
cabin to forecastle it seems to have broken out like a contagion. I
scarcely know where to begin. Wolf Larsen was really the cause of
it. The relations among the men, strained and made tense by feuds,
quarrels and grudges, were in a state of unstable equilibrium, and evil
passions flared up in flame like prairie- grass.
Thomas Mugridge is a sneak, a spy, an informer. He has
been attempting to curry favour 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, bought a suit of oilskins from the slop-chest and found them to be
of greatly inferior quality. Nor was he slow in advertising the
fact. The slop-chest is a sort of miniature dry-goods store which is
carried by all sealing schooners and which is stocked with articles peculiar
to the needs of the sailors. Whatever a sailor purchases is taken from his
subsequent earnings on the sealing grounds; for, as it is with the hunters so
it is with the boat-pullers and steerers - in the place of wages
they receive a "lay," a rate of so much per skin for every skin
captured in their particular boat.
But of Johnson's grumbling at the slop-chest I knew nothing, so that
what I witnessed came with a shock of sudden surprise. I had just
finished sweeping the cabin, and had been inveigled by Wolf Larsen into a
discussion of Hamlet, his favourite Shakespearian 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 centre
of the cabin, swaying heavily and uneasily to the roll of the schooner and
facing the captain.
"Shut the doors and draw the slide," Wolf Larsen said to me.
As I obeyed I noticed an anxious light come into Johnson's eyes, but I
did not dream of its cause. I did not dream of what was to occur until
it did occur, but he knew from the very first what was coming and awaited it
bravely. And in his action I found complete refutation of all Wolf
Larsen's materialism. The sailor Johnson was swayed by idea, by
principle, and truth, and sincerity. He was right, he knew he was
right, and he was unafraid. He would die for the right if needs be, he
would be true to himself, sincere with his soul. And in this was
portrayed the victory of the spirit over the flesh, the indomitability and
moral grandeur of the soul that knows no restriction and rises above time and
space and matter with a surety and invincibleness born of nothing else than
eternity and immortality.
But to return. I noticed the 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 pivotal cabin
chairs. An appreciable pause fell after I had closed the doors and
drawn the slide, a pause that must have lasted fully a minute. It was
broken by Wolf Larsen.
"Yonson," he began.
"My name is Johnson, sir," the sailor boldly corrected.
"Well, Johnson, then, damn you! Can you guess why I have sent
"Yes, and no, sir," was the slow reply. "My work is done well. The
mate knows that, and you know it, sir. So there cannot be
"And is that all?" Wolf Larsen queried, his voice soft, and low, and
"I know you have it in for me," Johnson continued with his unalterable
and ponderous slowness. "You do not like me. You - you - "
"Go on," Wolf Larsen prompted. "Don't be afraid of my
"I am not afraid," the sailor retorted, a slight angry flush
rising through his sunburn. "If I speak not fast, it is because I
have not been from the old country as long as you. You do not like
me because I am too much of a man; that is why, sir."
"You are too much of a man for ship discipline, if that is what
you mean, and if you know what I mean," was Wolf Larsen's retort.
"I know English, and I know what you mean, sir," Johnson answered, his
flush deepening at the slur on his knowledge of the English language.
"Johnson," Wolf Larsen said, with an air of dismissing all that had gone
before as introductory to the main business in hand, "I understand you're not
quite satisfied with those oilskins?"
"No, I am not. They are no good, sir."
"And you've been shooting off your mouth about them."
"I say what I think, sir," the sailor answered courageously, not failing
at the same time in ship courtesy, which demanded that "sir" be appended to
each speech he made.
It was at this moment that I chanced to glance at Johansen.
His big fists were clenching and unclenching, and his face was positively
fiendish, so malignantly did he look at Johnson. I noticed a black
discoloration, still faintly visible, under Johansen's eye, a mark of the
thrashing he had received a few nights before from the sailor. For the
first time I began to divine that something terrible was about to be enacted,
- what, I could not imagine.
"Do you know what happens to men who say what you've said about
my slop-chest and me?" Wolf Larsen was demanding.
"I know, sir," was the answer.
"What?" Wolf Larsen demanded, sharply and imperatively.
"What you and the mate there are going to do to me, sir."
"Look at him, Hump," Wolf Larsen said to me, "look at this bit
of animated dust, this aggregation of matter that moves and breathes and
defies me and thoroughly believes itself to be compounded of something good;
that is impressed with certain human fictions such as righteousness and
honesty, and that will live up to them in spite of all personal discomforts
and menaces. What do you think of him, Hump? What do you think of
"I think that he is a better man than you are," I answered, impelled,
somehow, with a desire to draw upon myself a portion of the wrath I felt was
about to break upon his head. "His human fictions, as you choose to
call them, make for nobility and manhood. You have no fictions, no
dreams, no ideals. You are a pauper."
He nodded his head with a savage pleasantness. "Quite true,
Hump, quite true. I have no fictions that make for nobility and
manhood. A living dog is better than a dead lion, say I with the
Preacher. My only doctrine is the doctrine of expediency, and it makes
for surviving. This bit of the ferment we call 'Johnson,' when he
is no longer a bit of the ferment, only dust and ashes, will have no more
nobility than any dust and ashes, while I shall still be alive and
"Do you know what I am going to do?" he questioned.
I shook my head.
"Well, I am going to exercise my prerogative of roaring and show you how
fares nobility. Watch me."
Three yards away from Johnson he was, and sitting down. Nine
feet! And yet he left the chair in full leap, without first gaining
a standing position. He left the chair, just as he sat in
it, squarely, springing from the sitting posture like a wild animal,
a tiger, and like a tiger covered the intervening space. It was
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 axe. He almost fell backward, and swayed from side
to side in an effort to recover his balance.
I cannot give the further particulars of the horrible scene
that followed. It was too revolting. It turns me sick even now
when I think of it. Johnson fought bravely enough, but he was no
match for Wolf Larsen, much less for Wolf Larsen and the mate. It
was frightful. I had not imagined a human being could endure so
much and still live and struggle on. And struggle on Johnson did.
Of course there was no hope for him, not the slightest, and he knew it as
well as I, but by the manhood that was in him he could not cease from
fighting for that manhood.
It was too much for me to witness. I felt that I should lose
my mind, and I ran up the companion stairs to open the doors and escape on
deck. But Wolf Larsen, leaving his victim for the moment, and with one
of his tremendous springs, gained my side and flung me into the far corner of
"The phenomena of life, Hump," he girded at me. "Stay and
watch it. You may gather data on the immortality of the soul.
Besides, you know, we can't hurt Johnson's soul. It's only the
fleeting form we may demolish."
It seemed centuries - possibly it was no more than ten minutes that the
beating continued. Wolf Larsen and Johansen were all about the poor
fellow. They struck him with their fists, kicked him with their heavy
shoes, knocked him down, and dragged him to his feet to knock him down
again. His eyes were blinded so that he could not set, and the blood
running from ears and nose and mouth turned the cabin into a shambles.
And when he could no longer rise they still continued to beat and kick him
where he lay.
"Easy, Johansen; easy as she goes," Wolf Larsen finally said.
But the beast in the mate was up and rampant, and Wolf Larsen
was compelled to brush him away with a back-handed sweep of the
arm, gentle enough, apparently, but which hurled Johansen back like
a cork, driving his head against the wall with a crash. He fell
to the floor, half stunned for the moment, breathing heavily and blinking
his eyes in a stupid sort of way.
"Jerk open the doors, - Hump," I was commanded.
I obeyed, and the two brutes picked up the senseless man like a sack of
rubbish and hove him clear up the companion stairs, through the narrow
doorway, and out on deck. The blood from his nose gushed in a scarlet
stream over the feet of the helmsman, who was none other than Louis, his
boat-mate. But Louis took and gave a spoke and gazed imperturbably into
Not so was the conduct of George Leach, the erstwhile cabin-boy. Fore
and aft there was nothing that could have surprised us more than his
consequent behaviour. 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. Johnson, as Johnson, was
unrecognizable; and not only that, for his features, as human features at
all, were unrecognizable, so discoloured and swollen had they become in the
few minutes which had elapsed between the beginning of the beating and the
dragging forward of the body.
But of Leach's behaviour - By the time I had finished
cleansing the cabin he had taken care of Johnson. I had come up on deck
for a breath of fresh air and to try to get some repose for my overwrought
nerves. Wolf Larsen was smoking a cigar and examining the patent log
which the Ghost usually towed astern, but which had been hauled in for some
purpose. Suddenly Leach's voice came to my ears. It was tense and
hoarse with an overmastering rage. I turned and saw him standing just
beneath the break of the poop on the port side of the galley. His face
was convulsed and white, his eyes were flashing, his clenched fists raised
"May God damn your soul to hell, Wolf Larsen, only hell's too good for
you, you coward, you murderer, you pig!" was his opening salutation.
I was thunderstruck. I looked for his instant annihilation.
But it was not Wolf Larsen's whim to annihilate him. He
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
And the boy indicted 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 in 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
And such condemnation! He haled forth Wolf Larsen's soul naked
to the scorn of men. He rained upon it curses from God and
High Heaven, and withered it with a heat of invective that savoured of
a mediaeval excommunication of the Catholic Church. He ran the
gamut of denunciation, rising to heights of wrath that were sublime
and almost Godlike, and from sheer exhaustion sinking to the vilest
and most indecent abuse.
His rage was a madness. His lips were flecked with a soapy
froth, and sometimes he choked and gurgled and became inarticulate.
And through it all, calm and impassive, leaning on his elbow and
gazing down, Wolf Larsen seemed lost in a great curiosity. This
wild stirring of yeasty life, this terrific revolt and defiance of matter
that moved, perplexed and interested him.
Each moment I looked, and everybody looked, for him to leap upon the boy
and destroy him. But it was not his whim. His cigar went out, and
he continued to gaze silently and curiously.
Leach had worked himself into an ecstasy of impotent rage.
"Pig! Pig! Pig!" he was reiterating at the top of his
lungs. "Why don't you come down and kill me, you murderer? You can do
it! I ain't afraid! There's no one to stop you! Damn sight
better dead and outa your reach than alive and in your clutches! 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, though mad, stark mad. He turned to Leach,
"Such langwidge! Shockin'!"
Leach's rage was no longer impotent. Here at last was
something ready to hand. And for the first time since the stabbing
the Cockney had appeared outside the galley without his knife.
The words had barely left his mouth when he was knocked down by
Leach. Three times he struggled to his feet, striving to gain the
galley, and each time was knocked down.
"Oh, Lord!" he cried. "'Elp! Elp! Tyke 'im aw'y, carn't
yer? Tyke 'im aw'y!"
The hunters laughed from sheer relief. Tragedy had dwindled,
the farce had begun. The sailors now crowded boldly aft, grinning
and shuffling, to watch the pummelling 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 never
changed. He did not change his position either, but continued to gaze
down with a great curiosity. 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, of discerning in its
maddest writhings a something which had hitherto escaped him, - the key
to its mystery, as it were, which would make all clear and plain.
But the beating! It was quite similar to the one I had
witnessed in the cabin. The Cockney strove in vain to protect himself
from the infuriated boy. And in vain he strove to gain the shelter
of the cabin. He rolled toward it, grovelled toward it, fell
toward it when he was knocked down. But blow followed blow
with bewildering rapidity. He was knocked about like a
shuttlecock, until, finally, like Johnson, he was beaten and kicked as he
lay helpless on the deck. And no one interfered. Leach could
have killed him, but, having evidently filled the measure of
his vengeance, he drew away from his prostrate foe, who was whimpering and
wailing in a puppyish sort of way, and walked forward.
But these two affairs were only the opening events of the
day's programme. 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 anaesthetics
and with no more to uphold them than a stiff tumbler of whisky.
Then, in the first dog-watch, trouble came to a head in
the forecastle. It took its rise out of the tittle-tattle and
tale- bearing which had been the cause of Johnson's beating, and from
the noise we heard, and from the sight of the bruised men next day, it was
patent that half the forecastle had soundly drubbed the other half.
The second dog-watch and the day were wound up by a fight
between Johansen and the lean, Yankee-looking hunter, Latimer. It
was caused by 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.
As for myself, I was oppressed with nightmare. The day had
been like some horrible dream. Brutality had followed brutality,
and flaming passions and cold-blooded cruelty had driven men to seek one
another's lives, and to strive to hurt, and maim, and destroy. My nerves were
shocked. My mind itself was shocked. All my days had been passed
in comparative ignorance of the animality of man. In fact, I had known life
only in its intellectual phases. Brutality I had experienced, but it was the
brutality of the intellect - the cutting sarcasm of Charley Furuseth, the
cruel epigrams and occasional harsh witticisms of the fellows at
the Bibelot, and the nasty remarks of some of the professors during
my undergraduate days.
That was all. But that men should wreak their anger on others
by the bruising of the flesh and the letting of blood was
something strangely and fearfully new to me. Not for nothing had I
been called "Sissy" Van Weyden, I thought, as I tossed restlessly on
my bunk between one nightmare and another. And it seemed to me
that my innocence of the realities of life had been complete indeed.
I laughed bitterly to myself, and seemed to find in Wolf
Larsen's forbidding philosophy a more adequate explanation of life than
I found in my own.
And I was frightened when I became conscious of the trend of
my thought. The continual brutality around me was degenerative in
its effect. It bid fair to destroy for me all that was best
and brightest in life. My reason dictated that the beating
Thomas Mugridge had received was an ill thing, and yet for the life of
me I could not prevent my soul joying in it. And even while I
was oppressed by the enormity of my sin, - for sin it was, - I
chuckled with an insane delight. I was no longer Humphrey Van
Weyden. I was Hump, cabin-boy on the schooner Ghost. Wolf Larsen
was my captain, Thomas Mugridge and the rest were my companions, and I
was receiving repeated impresses from the die which had stamped
For three days I did my own work and Thomas Mugridge's too; and
I flatter myself that I did his work well. I know that it won
Wolf Larsen's approval, while the sailors beamed with satisfaction during
the brief time my REGIME lasted.
"The first clean bite since I come aboard," Harrison said to me at the
galley door, as he returned the dinner pots and pans from
the forecastle. "Somehow Tommy's grub always tastes of grease,
stale grease, and I reckon he ain't changed his shirt since he
"I know he hasn't," I answered.
"And I'll bet he sleeps in it," Harrison added.
"And you won't lose," I agreed. "The same shirt, and he hasn't
had it off once in all this time."
But three days was 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
"And see that you serve no more slops," was his parting injunction. "No
more grease and dirt, mind, and a clean shirt occasionally, or you'll get a
tow over the side. Understand?"
Thomas Mugridge crawled weakly across the galley floor, and a
short lurch of the Ghost sent him staggering. In attempting to
recover himself, he reached for the iron railing which surrounded the
stove and kept the pots from sliding off; but he missed the railing,
and his hand, with his weight behind it, landed squarely on the
hot surface. There was a sizzle and odour of burning flesh, and
a sharp cry of pain.
"Oh, Gawd, Gawd, wot 'ave I done?" he wailed; sitting down in
the coal-box 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 'armless an' 'urtin' nobody."
The tears were running down his puffed and discoloured cheeks, and his
face was drawn with pain. A savage expression flitted across it.
"Oh, 'ow I 'ate 'im! 'Ow I 'ate 'im!" he gritted out.
"Whom?" I asked; but the poor wretch was weeping again over
his misfortunes. Less difficult it was to guess whom he hated
than whom he did not hate. For I had come to see a malignant devil
in him which impelled him to hate all the world. I sometimes
thought that he hated even himself, so grotesquely had life dealt with
him, and so monstrously. At such moments a great sympathy welled
up within me, and I felt shame that I had ever joyed in his discomfiture
or pain. Life had been unfair to him. It had played him a scurvy
trick when it fashioned him into the thing he was, and it had played him
scurvy tricks ever since. What chance had he to be anything else than
he was? And as though answering my unspoken thought, he wailed:
"I never 'ad no chance, not 'arf a chance! 'Oo was there to
send me to school, or put tommy in my 'ungry belly, or wipe my bloody nose
for me, w'en I was a kiddy? 'Oo ever did anything for me, heh?
'Oo, I s'y?"
"Never mind, Tommy," I said, placing a soothing hand on
his shoulder. "Cheer up. It'll all come right in the end.
You've long years before you, and you can make anything you please
"It's a lie! a bloody lie!" he shouted in my face, flinging off
the hand. "It's a lie, and 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 yer little belly gnawin' an' gnawin', like a rat
inside yer. It carn't come right. If I was President of
the United Stytes to-morrer, 'ow would it fill my belly for one time w'en
I was a kiddy and it went empty?
"'Ow could it, I s'y? I was born to sufferin' and sorrer.
I've had 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 and was
rotten with it six months in Barbadoes. Smallpox in 'Onolulu, two
broken legs in Shanghai, pnuemonia 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
This tirade against destiny went on for an hour or more, and then he
buckled to his work, limping and groaning, and in his eyes a great hatred for
all created things. His diagnosis was correct, however, for he was
seized with occasional sicknesses, during which he vomited blood and suffered
great pain. And as he said, it seemed God hated him too much to let him
die, for he ultimately grew better and waxed more malignant than ever.
Several days more passed before Johnson crawled on deck and went about
his work in a half-hearted way. He was still a sick man, and I more
than once observed him creeping painfully aloft to a topsail, or drooping
wearily as he stood at the wheel. But, still worse, it seemed that his
spirit was broken. He was abject before Wolf Larsen and almost
grovelled to Johansen. Not so was the conduct of Leach. He went
about the deck like a tiger cub, glaring his hatred openly at Wolf Larsen and
"I'll do for you yet, you slab-footed Swede," I heard him say
to Johansen one night on deck.
The mate cursed him in the darkness, and the next moment some missile
struck the galley a sharp rap. There was more cursing, and a mocking
laugh, and when all was quiet I stole outside and found a heavy knife
imbedded over an inch in the solid wood. A few minutes later the mate
came fumbling about in search of it, but I returned it privily to Leach next
day. He grinned when I handed it over, yet it was a grin that contained
more sincere thanks than a multitude of the verbosities of speech common to
the members of my own class.
Unlike any one else in the ship's company, I now found myself with no
quarrels on my hands and in the good graces of all. The
hunters possibly no more than tolerated me, though none of them
disliked me; while Smoke and Henderson, convalescent under a deck awning
and swinging day and night in their hammocks, assured me that I was better
than any hospital nurse, and that they would not forget me at the end of the
voyage when they were paid off. (As though I stood in need of their
money! I, who could have bought them out, bag and baggage, and the
schooner and its equipment, a score of times over!) But upon me had
devolved the task of tending their wounds, and pulling them through, and I
did my best by them.
Wolf Larsen underwent another bad attack of headache which lasted two
days. He must have suffered severely, for he called me in and obeyed my
commands like a sick child. But nothing I could do seemed to relieve
him. At my suggestion, however, he gave up smoking and drinking; though
why such a magnificent animal as he should have headaches at all puzzles
"'Tis the hand of God, I'm tellin' you," is the way Louis sees it. "'Tis
a visitation for his black-hearted deeds, and there's more behind and comin',
or else - "
"Or else," I prompted.
"God is noddin' and not doin' his duty, though it's me as shouldn't say
I was mistaken when I said that I was in the good graces of all. Not
only does Thomas Mugridge continue to hate me, but he has discovered a new
reason for hating me. It took me no little while to puzzle it out, but
I finally discovered that it was because I was more luckily born than he -
"gentleman born," he put it.
"And still no more dead men," I twitted Louis, when Smoke and Henderson,
side by side, in friendly conversation, took their first exercise on
Louis surveyed me with his shrewd grey eyes, and shook his
head portentously. "She's a-comin', I tell you, and it'll be sheets
and halyards, stand by all hands, when she begins to howl. I've
had the feel iv it this long time, and I can feel it now as plainly as I
feel the rigging iv a dark night. She's close, she's close."
"Who goes first?" I queried.
"Not fat old Louis, I promise you," he laughed. "For 'tis 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
"Wot's 'e been s'yin' to yer?" Thomas Mugridge demanded a
"That he's going home some day to see his mother," I
"I never 'ad none," was the Cockney's comment, as he gazed
with lustreless, hopeless eyes into mine.
It has dawned upon me that I have 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 in that I am possessed of a
mother and some several sisters.
All of which has set me wondering. Where are the mothers of
these twenty and odd men on the Ghost? It strikes me as unnatural
and unhealthful that men should be totally separated from women and herd
through the world by themselves. Coarseness and savagery are the
inevitable results. These men about me should have wives, and sisters,
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 over- developed. The other and spiritual side of their
natures has been dwarfed - atrophied, in fact.
They are a company of celibates, grinding harshly against one another
and growing daily more calloused from the grinding. It seems to me
impossible sometimes that they ever had mothers. It would appear that
they are a half-brute, half-human species, a race apart, wherein there is no
such thing as sex; that they are hatched out by the sun like turtle eggs, or
receive life in some similar and sordid fashion; and that all their days they
fester in brutality and viciousness, and in the end die as unlovely as
they have lived.
Rendered curious by this new direction of ideas, I talked with Johansen
last night - the first superfluous words with which he has favoured me since
the voyage began. He left Sweden when he was eighteen, is now
thirty-eight, and in all the intervening time has not been home once.
He had met a townsman, a couple of years before, in some sailor
boarding-house in Chile, so that he knew his mother to be still alive.
"She must be a pretty old woman now," he said, staring meditatively into
the binnacle and then jerking a sharp glance at Harrison, who was steering a
point off the course.
"When did you last write to her?"
He performed his mental arithmetic aloud. "Eighty-one; no
- eighty-two, eh? no - eighty-three? Yes, eighty-three. Ten
years ago. From some little port in Madagascar. I was
"You see," he went on, as though addressing his neglected mother across
half the girth of the earth, "each year I was going home. So what was the
good to write? It was only a year. And each year something
happened, and I did not go. But I am mate, now, and when I pay off at
'Frisco, maybe with five hundred dollars, I will ship myself on a windjammer
round the Horn to Liverpool, which will give me more money; and then I will
pay my passage from there home. Then she will not do any more work."
"But does she work? now? How old is she?"
"About seventy," he answered. And then, boastingly, "We work
from the time we are born until we die, in my country. That's why
we live so long. I will live to a hundred."
I shall never forget this conversation. The words were the last
I ever heard him utter. Perhaps they were the last he did
utter, too. For, going down into the cabin to turn in, I decided that
it was too stuffy to sleep below. It was a calm night. We were
out of the Trades, and the Ghost was forging ahead barely a knot
an hour. So I tucked a blanket and pillow under my arm and went up
As I passed between Harrison and the binnacle, which was built into the
top of the cabin, I noticed that he was this time fully three points
off. Thinking that he was asleep, and wishing him to escape reprimand
or worse, I spoke to him. But he was not asleep. His eyes were
wide and staring. He seemed greatly perturbed, unable to reply to
"What's the matter?" I asked. "Are you sick?"
He shook his head, and with a deep sign as of awakening, caught
"You'd better get on your course, then," I chided.
He put a few spokes over, and I watched the compass-card swing slowly to
N.N.W. and steady itself with slight oscillations.
I took a fresh hold on my bedclothes and was preparing to start on, when
some movement caught my eye and I looked astern to the rail. A sinewy hand,
dripping with water, was clutching the rail. A second hand took form in
the darkness beside it. I watched, fascinated. What visitant from
the gloom of the deep was I to behold? Whatever it was, I knew that it
was climbing aboard by the log-line. I saw a head, the hair wet and
straight, shape itself, and then the unmistakable eyes and face of Wolf
Larsen. His right cheek was red with blood, which flowed from some
wound in the head.
He drew himself inboard with a quick effort, and arose to his
feet, glancing swiftly, as he did so, at the man at the wheel, as
though to assure himself of his identity and that there was nothing
to fear from him. The sea-water was streaming from him. It
made little audible gurgles which distracted me. As he stepped
toward me I shrank back instinctively, for I saw that in his eyes
which spelled death.
"All right, Hump," he said in a low voice. "Where's the mate?"
I shook my head.
"Johansen!" he called softly. "Johansen!"
"Where is he?" he demanded of Harrison.
The young fellow seemed to have recovered his composure, for he answered
steadily enough, "I don't know, sir. I saw him go for'ard a little
"So did I go for'ard. But you will observe that I didn't come
back the way I went. Can you explain it?"
"You must have been overboard, sir."
"Shall I look for him in the steerage, sir?" I asked.
Wolf Larsen shook his head. "You wouldn't find him, Hump.
But you'll do. Come on. Never mind your bedding. Leave it
where it is."
I followed at his heels. There was nothing stirring amidships.
"Those cursed hunters," was his comment. "Too damned fat and
lazy to stand a four-hour watch."
But on the forecastle-head we found three sailors asleep.
He turned them over and looked at their faces. They composed
the watch on deck, and it was the ship's custom, in good weather, to let
the watch sleep with the exception of the officer, the helmsman, and the
"Who's look-out?" he demanded.
"Me, sir," answered Holyoak, one of the deep-water sailors, a slight
tremor in his voice. "I winked off just this very minute, sir.
I'm sorry, sir. It won't happen again."
"Did you hear or see anything on deck?"
"No, sir, I - "
But Wolf Larsen had turned away with a snort of disgust, leaving the
sailor rubbing his eyes with surprise at having been let off so easily.
"Softly, now," Wolf Larsen warned me in a whisper, as he doubled his
body into the forecastle scuttle and prepared to descend.
I followed with a quaking heart. What was to happen I knew no
more than did I know what had happened. But blood had been shed, and
it was through no whim of Wolf Larsen that he had gone over the side with
his scalp laid open. Besides, Johansen was missing.
It was my first descent into the forecastle, and I shall not soon forget
my impression of it, caught as I stood on my feet at the bottom of the
ladder. Built directly in the eyes of the schooner, it was of the shape
of a triangle, along the three sides of which stood the bunks, in
double-tier, twelve of them. It was no larger than a hall bedroom in
Grub Street, and yet twelve men were herded into it to eat and sleep and
carry on all the functions of living. My bedroom at home was not large, yet
it could have contained a dozen similar forecastles, and taking into
consideration the height of the ceiling, a score at least.
It smelled sour and musty, and by the dim light of the swinging sea-lamp
I saw every bit of available wall-space hung deep with sea-boots, oilskins,
and garments, clean and dirty, of various sorts. These swung back and
forth with every roll of the vessel, giving rise to a brushing sound, as of
trees against a roof or wall. Somewhere a boot thumped loudly and at
irregular intervals against the wall; and, though it was a mild night on the
sea, there was a continual chorus of the creaking timbers and bulkheads and
of abysmal noises beneath the flooring.
The sleepers did not mind. There were eight of them, - the
two watches below, - and the air was thick with the warmth and odour
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
He took the sea-lamp from its swinging frame and handed it to me. He
began at the first bunks forward on the star-board side. In the top one
lay Oofty-Oofty, a Kanaka and 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. The eyes, only, moved. They
flashed wide open, big and black, and stared, unblinking, into our
faces. Wolf Larsen put his finger to his lips as a sign for silence,
and the eyes closed again.
In the lower bunk lay Louis, grossly fat and warm and sweaty, asleep
unfeignedly and sleeping laboriously. While Wolf Larsen held his wrist
he stirred uneasily, bowing his body so that for a moment it rested on
shoulders and heels. His lips moved, and he gave voice to this
"A shilling's worth a quarter; but keep your lamps out
for thruppenny-bits, or the publicans 'll shove 'em on you
Then he rolled over on his side with a heavy, sobbing sigh, saying:
"A sixpence is a tanner, and a shilling a bob; but what a pony is
I don't know."
Satisfied with the honesty of his and the Kanaka's sleep, Wolf Larsen
passed on to the next two bunks on the starboard side, occupied top and
bottom, as we saw in the light of the sea-lamp, by Leach and Johnson.
As Wolf Larsen bent down to the lower bunk to take Johnson's pulse, I,
standing erect and holding the lamp, saw Leach's head rise 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 was left in darkness. He
must have leaped, also, at the same instant, straight down on Wolf
The first sounds were those of a conflict between a bull and
a wolf. I heard a great infuriated bellow go up from Wolf
Larsen, and from Leach a snarling that was desperate and
blood-curdling. Johnson must have joined him immediately, so that his abject
and grovelling conduct on deck for the past few days had been no more than
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 laboured breathing, the short quick gasps of sudden
There must have been more men in the conspiracy to murder the captain
and mate, for by the sounds I knew that Leach and Johnson had been quickly
reinforced by some of their mates.
"Get a knife somebody!" Leach was shouting.
"Pound him on the head! Mash his brains out!" was Johnson's
But after his first bellow, Wolf Larsen made no noise. He
was fighting grimly and silently for life. He was sore beset.
Down at the very first, he had been unable to gain his feet, and for all
of his tremendous strength I felt that there was no hope for him.
The force with which they struggled was vividly impressed on me; for I
was knocked down by their surging bodies and badly bruised. But in the
confusion I managed to crawl into an empty lower bunk out of the way.
"All hands! We've got him! We've got him!" I could hear
"Who?" demanded those who had been really asleep, and who had wakened to
they knew not what.
"It's the bloody mate!" was Leach's crafty answer, strained from him in
a smothered sort of way.
This was greeted with whoops of joy, and from then on Wolf Larsen had
seven strong men on top of him, Louis, I believe, taking no part in it.
The forecastle was like an angry hive of bees aroused by some marauder.
"What ho! below there!" I heard Latimer shout down the scuttle,
too cautious to descend into the inferno of passion he could hear raging
beneath him in the darkness.
"Won't somebody get a knife? Oh, won't somebody get a
knife?" Leach pleaded in the first interval of comparative silence.
The number of the assailants was a cause of confusion.
They blocked their own efforts, while Wolf Larsen, with but a
single purpose, achieved his. This was to fight his way across the
floor to the ladder. Though in total darkness, I followed his
progress by its sound. No man less than a giant could have done what
he did, once he had gained the foot of the ladder. Step by step,
by the might of his arms, the whole pack of men striving to drag him back
and down, he drew his body up from the floor till he stood erect. And
then, step by step, hand and foot, he slowly struggled up the ladder.
The very last of all, I saw. For Latimer, having finally gone
for a lantern, held it so that its light shone down the scuttle.
Wolf Larsen was nearly to the top, though I could not see him. All
that was visible was the mass of men fastened upon him. It
squirmed about, like some huge many-legged spider, and swayed back and
forth to the regular roll of the vessel. And still, step by step
with long intervals between, the mass ascended. Once it tottered,
about to fall back, but the broken hold was regained and it still
"Who is it?" Latimer cried.
In the rays of the lantern I could see his perplexed face
"Larsen," I heard a muffled voice from within the mass.
Latimer reached down with his free hand. I saw a hand shoot up
to clasp his. Latimer pulled, and the next couple of steps were
made with a rush. Then Wolf Larsen's other hand reached up and
clutched the edge of the scuttle. The mass swung clear of the ladder,
the men still clinging to their escaping foe. They began to drop
of, 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 beneath. Wolf Larsen and the
lantern disappeared, and we were left in darkness.
There was a deal of cursing and groaning as the men at the bottom of the
ladder crawled to their feet.
"Somebody strike a light, my thumb's out of joint," said one of the men,
Parsons, a swarthy, saturnine man, boat-steerer in Standish's boat, in which
Harrison was puller.
"You'll find it knockin' about by the bitts," Leach said, sitting down
on the edge of the bunk in which I was concealed.
There was a fumbling and a scratching of matches, and the
sea-lamp flared up, dim and smoky, and in its weird light bare-legged
men moved about nursing their bruises and caring for their
hurts. Oofty-Oofty laid hold of Parsons's 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. He
exhibited them, exposing beautiful white teeth in a grin as he did so, and
explaining that the wounds had come from striking Wolf Larsen in the
"So it was you, was it, you black beggar?" belligerently demanded one
Kelly, an Irish-American and a longshoreman, making his first trip to sea,
and boat-puller for Kerfoot.
As he made the demand he spat out a mouthful of blood and teeth
and shoved his pugnacious face close to Oofty-Oofty. The Kanaka
leaped backward to his bunk, to return with a second leap, flourishing
a long knife.
"Aw, go lay down, you make me tired," Leach interfered. He
was evidently, for all of his youth and inexperience, cock of
the forecastle. "G'wan, you Kelly. You leave Oofty alone.
How in hell did he know it was you in the dark?"
Kelly subsided with some muttering, and the Kanaka flashed his white
teeth in a grateful smile. He was a beautiful creature, almost feminine
in the pleasing lines of his figure, and there was a softness and dreaminess
in his large eyes which seemed to contradict his well-earned reputation for
strife and action.
"How did he get away?" Johnson asked.
He was sitting on the side of his bunk, the whole pose of his figure
indicating utter dejection and hopelessness. He was still breathing
heavily from the exertion he had made. His shirt had been ripped
entirely from him in the struggle, and blood from a gash in the cheek was
flowing down his naked chest, marking a red path across his white thigh and
dripping to the floor.
"Because he is the devil, as I told you before," was Leach's answer; and
thereat he was on his feet and raging his disappointment with tears in his
"And not one of you to get a knife!" was his unceasing lament.
But the rest of the hands had a lively fear of consequences to come and
gave no heed to him.
"How'll he know which was which?" Kelly asked, and as he went on
he looked murderously about him - "unless one of us peaches."
"He'll know as soon as ever he claps eyes on us," Parsons replied. "One
look at you'd be enough."
"Tell him the deck flopped up and 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 to-morrow, the gang iv ye," he chuckled.
"We'll say we thought it was the mate," said one. And another,
"I know what I'll say - that I heered a row, jumped out of my bunk, got a
jolly good crack on the jaw for my pains, and sailed in myself.
Couldn't tell who or what it was in the dark and just hit out."
"An' 'twas me you hit, of course," Kelly seconded, his face brightening
for the moment.
Leach and Johnson took no part in the discussion, and it was plain to
see that their mates looked upon them as men for whom the worst was
inevitable, who were beyond hope and already dead. Leach stood their
fears and reproaches for some time. Then he broke out:
"You make me tired! A nice lot of gazabas you are! If you
talked less with yer mouth and did something with yer hands, he'd
a-ben 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'
and bellerin' 'round, as though he'd kill you when he gets you!
You know damn well he won't. Can't afford to. No shipping masters
or beach-combers over here, and he wants yer in his business, and he wants
yer bad. Who's to pull or steer or sail ship if he loses yer?
It's me and Johnson have to face the music. Get into yer bunks, now,
and shut yer faces; I want to get some sleep."
"That's all right all right," Parsons spoke up. "Mebbe he won't
do for us, but mark my words, hell 'll be an ice-box to this ship from now
All the while I had been apprehensive concerning my
own predicament. 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 scuttles:
"Hump! The old man wants you!"
"He ain't down here!" Parsons called back.
"Yes, he is," I said, sliding out of the bunk and striving my hardest to
keep my voice steady and bold.
The sailors looked at me in consternation. Fear was strong
in their faces, and the devilishness which comes of fear.
"I'm coming!" I shouted up to Latimer.
"No you don't!" Kelly cried, stepping between me and the ladder, his
right hand shaped into a veritable strangler's clutch. "You damn little
sneak! I'll shut yer mouth!"
"Let him go," Leach commanded.
"Not on yer life," was the angry retort.
Leach never changed his position on the edge of the bunk. "Let
him go, I say," he repeated; but this time his voice was gritty
The Irishman wavered. I made to step by him, and he stood
aside. When I had gained the ladder, I turned to the circle of brutal
and malignant faces peering at me through the semi-darkness. A
sudden and deep sympathy welled up in me. I remembered the Cockney's
way of putting it. How God must have hated them that they should
be tortured so!
"I have seen and heard nothing, believe me," I said quietly.
"I tell yer, he's all right," I could hear Leach saying as I went up the
ladder. "He don't like the old man no more nor you or me."
I found Wolf Larsen in the cabin, stripped and bloody, waiting
for me. He greeted me with one of his whimsical smiles.
"Come, get to work, Doctor. The signs are favourable for
an extensive practice this voyage. I don't know what the Ghost
would have been without you, and if I could only cherish such
noble sentiments I would tell you her master is deeply grateful."
I knew the run of the simple medicine-chest the Ghost carried, and while
I was heating water on the cabin stove and getting the things ready for
dressing his wounds, he moved about, laughing and chatting, and examining his
hurts with a calculating eye. I had never before seen him stripped, and
the sight of his body quite took my breath away. It has never been my
weakness to exalt the flesh - far from it; but there is enough of the artist
in me to appreciate its wonder.
I must say that I was fascinated by the perfect lines of Wolf Larsen's
figure, and by what I may term the terrible beauty of it. I had noted the men
in the forecastle. Powerfully muscled though some of them were, there
had been something wrong with all of them, an insufficient development here,
an undue development there, a twist or a crook that destroyed symmetry, legs
too short or too long, or too much sinew or bone exposed, or too
little. Oofty- Oofty had been the only one whose lines were at all
pleasing, while, in so far as they pleased, that far had they been what
I should call feminine.
But Wolf Larsen was the man-type, the masculine, and almost a god in his
perfectness. As he moved about or raised his arms the great muscles
leapt and moved under the satiny skin. I have forgotten to say that the
bronze ended with his face. His body, thanks to his Scandinavian stock,
was fair as the fairest woman's. I remember his putting his hand up to
feel of the wound on his head, and my watching the biceps move like a living
thing under its white sheath. It was the biceps that had nearly crushed
out my life once, that I had seen strike so many killing blows. I could
not take my eyes from him. I stood motionless, a roll of
antiseptic cotton in my hand unwinding and spilling itself down to the
He noticed me, and I became conscious that I was staring at him.
"God made you well," I said.
"Did he?" he answered. "I have often thought so myself,
and wondered why."
"Purpose - " I began.
"Utility," he interrupted. "This body was made for use.
These muscles were made to grip, and tear, and destroy living things
that get between me and life. But have you thought of the other
living things? They, too, have muscles, of one kind and another, made
to grip, and tear, and destroy; and when they come between me and life, I
out-grip them, out-tear them, out-destroy them. Purpose does not
explain that. Utility does."
"It is not beautiful," I protested.
"Life isn't, you mean," he smiled. "Yet you say I was made
well. Do you see this?"
He braced his legs and feet, pressing the cabin floor with his toes in a
clutching sort of way. Knots and ridges and mounds of muscles writhed
and bunched under the skin.
"Feel them," he commanded.
They were hard as iron. And I observed, also, that his whole
body had unconsciously drawn itself together, tense and alert;
that muscles were softly crawling and shaping about the hips, along
the back, and across the shoulders; that the arms were slightly
lifted, their muscles contracting, the fingers crooking till the hands
were like talons; and that even the eyes had changed expression and
into them were coming watchfulness and measurement and a light none other
than of battle.
"Stability, equilibrium," he said, relaxing on the instant and sinking
his body back into repose. "Feet with which to clutch the ground, legs
to stand on and to help withstand, while with arms and hands, teeth and
nails, I struggle to kill and to be not killed. Purpose? Utility is the
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 great battleship or Atlantic liner.
I was surprised, considering the fierce struggle in the forecastle, at
the superficiality of his hurts, and I pride myself that I dressed them
dexterously. With the exception of several bad wounds, the rest were
merely severe bruises and lacerations. The blow which he had received
before going overboard had laid his scalp open several inches. This,
under his direction, I cleansed and sewed together, having first shaved the
edges of the wound. Then the calf of his leg was badly lacerated and looked
as though it had been mangled by a bulldog. Some sailor, he told me,
had laid hold of it by his teeth, at the beginning of the fight, and hung
on and been dragged to the top of the forecastle ladder, when he was kicked
"By the way, Hump, as I have remarked, you are a handy man," Wolf Larsen
began, when my work was done. "As you know, we're short a mate.
Hereafter you shall stand watches, receive seventy-five dollars per month,
and be addressed fore and aft as Mr. Van Weyden."
"I - I don't understand navigation, you know," I gasped.
"Not necessary at all."
"I really do not care to sit in the high places," I objected.
"I find life precarious enough in my present humble situation. I
have no experience. Mediocrity, you see, has its compensations."
He smiled as though it were all settled.
"I won't be mate on this hell-ship!" I cried defiantly.
I saw his face grow hard and the merciless glitter come into
his eyes. He walked to the door of his room, saying:
"And now, Mr. Van Weyden, good-night."
"Good-night, Mr. Larsen," I answered weakly.
I cannot say that the position of mate carried with it anything more
joyful than that there were no more dishes to wash. I was ignorant of
the simplest duties of mate, and would have fared badly indeed, had the
sailors not 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 an especially good teacher, - and
I had little trouble with those under me.
With the hunters it was otherwise. Familiar in varying degree
with the sea, they took me as a sort of joke. In truth, it was a
joke to me, that I, the veriest landsman, should be filling the office of
mate; but to be taken as a joke by others was a different matter. I
made no complaint, but Wolf Larsen demanded the most 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 it was only
unofficially that Wolf Larsen himself ever addressed me as "Hump."
It was amusing. Perhaps the wind would haul a few points while
we were at dinner, and as I left the table he would say, "Mr. Van Weyden,
will you kindly put about on the port tack." And I would go on deck,
beckon Louis to me, and learn from him what was to be done. Then, a few
minutes later, having digested his instructions and thoroughly mastered the
manoeuvre, 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 accomplished, and then paced aft by my side along the weather
"Hump," he said, "I beg pardon, Mr. Van Weyden, I congratulate you. I
think you can now fire your father's legs back into the grave to him.
You've discovered your own and learned to stand on them. A little
rope-work, sail-making, and experience with storms and such things, and by
the end of the voyage you could ship on any coasting schooner."
It was during this period, between the death of Johansen and the arrival
on the sealing grounds, that I passed my pleasantest hours on the
Ghost. Wolf Larsen was quite 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 land-lubber second
in command, - I was, nevertheless, carrying it off well; and during that
brief time I was proud of myself, and I grew to love the heave and roll of
the Ghost under my feet as she wallowed north and west through the tropic
sea to the islet where we filled our water-casks.
But my happiness was not unalloyed. It was comparative, a
period of less misery slipped in between a past of great miseries and
a future of great miseries. For the Ghost, so far as the seamen
were concerned, was a hell-ship of the worst description. They
never had a moment's rest or peace. Wolf Larsen treasured against
them the attempt on his life and the drubbing he had received in
the forecastle; and morning, noon, and night, and all night as well,
he devoted himself to making life unlivable for them.
He knew well the psychology of the little thing, and it was the little
things by which he kept the crew worked up to the verge of madness. I
have seen Harrison called from his bunk to put properly away a misplaced
paintbrush, and the two watches below haled from their tired sleep to
accompany him and see him do it. A little thing, truly, but when
multiplied by the thousand ingenious devices of such a mind, the mental state
of the men in the forecastle may be slightly comprehended.
Of course much grumbling went on, and little outbursts were continually
occurring. Blows were struck, and there were always two or three men
nursing injuries at the hands of the human beast who was their master.
Concerted action was impossible in face of the heavy arsenal of weapons
carried in the steerage and cabin. Leach and Johnson were the two particular
victims of Wolf Larsen's diabolic temper, and the look of profound melancholy
which had settled on Johnson's face and in his eyes made my heart
With Leach it was different. There was too much of the
fighting beast in him. He seemed possessed by an insatiable fury which
gave no time for grief. His lips had become distorted into a
permanent snarl, which at mere sight of Wolf Larsen broke out in
sound, horrible and menacing and, I do believe, unconsciously. I
have seen him follow Wolf Larsen about with his eyes, like an animal
its keeper, the while the animal-like snarl sounded deep in his throat and
vibrated forth between his teeth.
I remember once, on deck, in bright day, touching him on the shoulder as
preliminary to giving an order. His back was toward me, and at the
first feel of my hand he leaped upright in the air and away from me, snarling
and turning his head as he leaped. He had for the moment mistaken me
for the man he hated.
Both he and Johnson would have killed Wolf Larsen at the
slightest opportunity, but the opportunity never came. Wolf Larsen was
too wise for that, and, besides, they had no adequate weapons.
With their fists alone they had no chance whatever. Time and again
he fought it out with Leach who fought back always, like a wildcat, tooth
and nail and fist, until stretched, exhausted or unconscious, on the
deck. And he was never averse to another encounter. All the devil
that was in him challenged the devil in Wolf Larsen. They had but to appear
on deck at the same time, when they would be at it, cursing, snarling,
striking; and I have seen Leach fling himself upon Wolf Larsen without
warning or provocation. Once he threw his heavy sheath-knife, missing
Wolf Larsen's throat by an inch. Another time he dropped a steel
marlinspike from the mizzen 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 companion-way 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 shot-gun, and was making a rush for the deck
with it when caught by Kerfoot and disarmed.
I often wondered why Wolf Larsen did not kill him and make an end of
it. But he only laughed and seemed to enjoy it. There seemed
a certain spice about it, such as men must feel who take delight in making
pets of ferocious animals.
"It gives a thrill to life," he explained to me, "when life is carried
in one's hand. Man is a natural gambler, and life is the biggest stake
he can lay. The greater the odds, the greater the thrill. Why
should I deny myself the joy of exciting Leach's soul to fever-pitch?
For that matter, I do him a kindness. The greatness of sensation is
mutual. He is living more royally than any man for'ard, though he does
not know it. For he has what they have not - purpose, something to do
and be done, an all-absorbing end to strive to attain, the desire to kill me,
the hope that he may kill me. Really, Hump, he is living deep and
high. I doubt that he has ever lived so swiftly and keenly before, and
I honestly envy him, sometimes, when I see him raging at the summit of
passion and sensibility."
"Ah, but it is cowardly, cowardly!" I cried. "You have all
"Of the two of us, you and I, who is the greater coward?" he
asked seriously. "If the situation is unpleasing, you compromise
with your conscience when you make yourself a party to it. If you
were really great, really true to yourself, you would join forces
with Leach and Johnson. But you are afraid, you are afraid. You
want to live. The life that is in you cries out that it must live,
no matter what the cost; so you live ignominiously, untrue to the best you
dream of, sinning against your whole pitiful little code, and, if there were
a hell, heading your soul straight for it. Bah! I play the braver
part. I do no sin, for I am true to the promptings of the life that is
in me. I am sincere with my soul at least, and that is what you are
There was a sting in what he said. Perhaps, after all, I
was playing a cowardly part. And the more I thought about it the
more it appeared that my duty to myself lay in doing what he had advised,
lay in joining forces with Johnson and Leach and working for his death.
Right here, I think, entered the austere conscience of my Puritan ancestry,
impelling me toward lurid deeds and sanctioning even murder as right
conduct. I dwelt upon the idea. It would be a most moral act to rid the
world of such a monster. Humanity would be better and happier for it, life
fairer and sweeter.
I pondered it long, lying sleepless in my bunk and reviewing in endless
procession the facts of the situation. I talked with Johnson and Leach,
during the night watches when Wolf Larsen was below. Both men had lost
hope - Johnson, because of temperamental despondency; Leach, because he had
beaten himself out in the vain struggle and was exhausted. But he
caught my hand in a passionate grip one night, saying:
"I think yer square, Mr. Van Weyden. But stay where you are
and 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 favour
some time when we need it damn bad."
It was only next day, when Wainwright Island loomed to windward, close
abeam, that Wolf Larsen opened his mouth in prophecy. He had attacked
Johnson, been attacked by Leach, and had just finished whipping the pair of
"Leach," he said, "you know I'm going to kill you some time or other,
A snarl was the answer.
"And as for you, Johnson, you'll get so tired of life before I'm through
with you that you'll fling yourself over the side. See if you
"That's a suggestion," he added, in an aside to me. "I'll bet
you a month's pay he acts upon it."
I had cherished a hope that his victims would find an opportunity to
escape while filling our water-barrels, but Wolf Larsen had selected his spot
well. The Ghost lay half-a-mile beyond the surf- line of a lonely
beach. Here debauched a deep gorge, with precipitous, volcanic walls
which no man could scale. And here, under his direct supervision - for
he went ashore himself - Leach and Johnson filled the small casks and rolled
them down to the beach. They had no chance to make a break for liberty
in one of the boats.
Harrison and Kelly, however, made such an attempt. They
composed one of the boats' crews, and their task was to ply between
the schooner and the shore, carrying a single cask each trip.
Just before dinner, starting for the beach with an empty barrel,
they altered their course and bore away to the left to round
the promontory which jutted into the sea between them and liberty. Beyond
its foaming base lay the pretty villages of the Japanese colonists and
smiling valleys which penetrated deep into the interior. Once in the
fastnesses they promised, and the two men could defy Wolf Larsen.
I had observed Henderson and Smoke loitering about the deck all morning,
and I now learned why they were there. Procuring their rifles, they
opened fire in a leisurely manner, upon the deserters. It was a cold-blooded
exhibition of marksmanship. At first their bullets zipped harmlessly
along the surface of the water on either side the boat; but, as the men
continued to pull lustily, they struck closer and closer.
"Now, watch me take Kelly's right oar," Smoke said, drawing a
more careful aim.
I was looking through the glasses, and I saw the oar-blade shatter as he
shot. Henderson duplicated it, selecting Harrison's right oar.
The boat slewed around. The two remaining oars were
quickly broken. The men tried to row with the splinters, and had them
shot out of their hands. Kelly ripped up a bottom board and
began paddling, but dropped it with a cry of pain as its splinters
drove into his hands. Then they gave up, letting the boat drift till
a second boat, sent from the shore by Wolf Larsen, took them in tow and
brought them aboard.
Late that afternoon we hove up anchor and got away. Nothing
was before us but the three or four months' hunting on the
sealing grounds. The outlook was black indeed, and I went about my
work with a heavy heart. An almost funereal gloom seemed to
have descended upon the Ghost. Wolf Larsen had taken to his bunk
with one of his strange, splitting headaches. Harrison stood
listlessly at the wheel, half supporting himself by it, as though wearied
by the weight of his flesh. The rest of the men were morose
and silent. I came upon Kelly crouching to the lee of the
forecastle scuttle, his head on his knees, his arms about his head, in
an attitude of unutterable despondency.
Johnson I found lying full length on the forecastle head, staring at the
troubled churn of the forefoot, and I remembered with horror the suggestion
Wolf Larsen had made. It seemed likely to bear fruit. I tried to
break in on the man's morbid thoughts by calling him away, but he smiled
sadly at me and refused to obey.
Leach approached me as I returned aft.
"I want to ask a favour, 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,
and you'll have no trouble. Tell him I lived to be sorry for
the trouble I brought him and the things I done, and - and just tell him
'God bless him,' for me."
I nodded my head, but said, "We'll all win back to San Francisco, Leach,
and you'll be with me when I go to see Matt McCarthy."
"I'd like to believe you," he answered, shaking my hand, "but
I can't. Wolf Larsen 'll do for me, I know it; and all I can
hope is, he'll do it quick."
And as he left me I was aware of the same desire at my heart. Since it
was to be done, let it be done with despatch. The general gloom had
gathered me into its folds. The worst appeared inevitable; and as I
paced the deck, hour after hour, I found myself afflicted with Wolf Larsen's
repulsive ideas. What was it all about? Where was the grandeur of
life that it should permit such wanton destruction of human souls? It
was a cheap and sordid thing after all, this life, and the sooner over the
better. Over and done with! I, too, leaned upon the rail and
gazed longingly into the sea, with the certainty that sooner or later I
should be sinking down, down, through the cool green depths of its
Strange to say, in spite of the general foreboding, nothing of especial
moment happened on the Ghost. We ran on to the north and west till we
raised the coast of Japan and picked up with the great seal herd.
Coming from no man knew where in the illimitable Pacific, it was travelling
north on its annual migration to the rookeries of Bering Sea. And north
we travelled with it, ravaging and destroying, flinging the naked carcasses
to the shark and salting down the skins so that they might later adorn the
fair shoulders of the women of the cities.
It was wanton slaughter, and all for woman's sake. No man ate
of the seal meat or the oil. After a good day's killing I have
seen our decks covered with hides and bodies, slippery with fat and blood,
the scuppers running red; masts, ropes, and rails spattered with the
sanguinary colour; 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 ship-shape 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
One thing I was beginning to feel, and that was that I could never again
be quite the same man I had been. While my hope and faith in human life
still survived Wolf Larsen's destructive criticism, he had nevertheless been
a cause of change in minor matters. He had opened up for me the world
of the real, of which I had known practically nothing and from which I had
always shrunk. I had learned to look more closely at life as it was
lived, to recognize that there were such things as facts in the world, to
emerge from the realm of mind and idea and to place certain values on
the concrete and objective phases of existence.
I saw more of Wolf Larsen than ever when we had gained the grounds. For
when the weather was fair and we were in the midst of the herd, all hands
were away in the boats, and left on board were only he and I, and Thomas
Mugridge, who did not count. But there was no play about it. The
six boats, spreading out fan-wise 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 should have fair wind to run for us
in case of squalls or 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 look-out 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 of the masthead and in
the clinging on by my legs at that precarious height while I swept the sea
with glasses in search of the boats.
I remember one beautiful day, when the boats left early and the reports
of the hunters' guns grew dim and distant and died away as they scattered far
and wide over the sea. There was just the faintest wind from the
westward; but it breathed its last by the time we managed to get to leeward
of the last lee boat. One by one - I was at the masthead and saw - the
six boats disappeared over the bulge of the earth as they followed the seal
into the west. We lay, scarcely rolling on the placid sea, unable to
follow. Wolf Larsen was apprehensive. The barometer was down, and
the sky to the east did not please him. He studied it with
"If she comes out of there," he said, "hard and snappy, putting us to
windward of the boats, it's likely there'll be empty bunks in steerage and
By eleven o'clock the sea had become 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 over-towered us like some black sierra of the infernal
regions. So clearly could one see canyon, gorge, and precipice, and the
shadows that lie therein, that one looked unconsciously for the white
surf-line and bellowing caverns where the sea charges on the land. And
still we rocked gently, and there was no wind.
"It's no square" 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
us jumping, Hump, to pull through with half our boats. You'd better run
up and loosen the topsails."
"But if it is going to howl, and there are only two of us?" I asked, a
note of protest in my voice.
"Why we've got to make the best of the first of it and run down to our
boats before our canvas is ripped out of us. After that I don't give a
rap what happens. The sticks 'll stand it, and you and I will have to,
though we've plenty cut out for us."
Still the calm continued. We ate dinner, a hurried and
anxious meal for me with eighteen men abroad on the sea and beyond
the bulge of the earth, and with that heaven-rolling mountain range
of clouds moving slowly down upon us. Wolf Larsen did not
seem affected, however; though I noticed, when we returned to the deck, a
slight twitching of the nostrils, a perceptible quickness of movement.
His face was stern, the lines of it had grown hard, and yet in his eyes -
blue, clear blue this day - there was a strange brilliancy, a bright
scintillating light. It struck me that he was joyous, in a ferocious
sort of way; that he was glad there was an impending struggle; that he was
thrilled and upborne with knowledge that one of the great moments of living,
when the tide of life surges up in flood, was upon him.
Once, and unwitting that he did so or that I saw, he laughed
aloud, mockingly and defiantly, at the advancing storm. I see him
yet standing there like a pigmy out of the ARABIAN NIGHTS before the huge
front of some malignant genie. He was daring destiny, and he was
He walked to the galley. "Cooky, by the time you've finished
pots and pans you'll be wanted on deck. Stand ready for a call."
"Hump," he said, becoming cognizant of the fascinated gaze I bent upon
him, "this beats whisky and is where your Omar misses. I think he only
half lived after all."
The western half of the sky had by now grown murky. The sun
had dimmed and faded out of sight. It was two in the afternoon, and
a ghostly twilight, shot through by wandering purplish lights,
had descended upon us. In this purplish light Wolf Larsen's
face glowed and glowed, and to my excited fancy he appeared encircled by a
halo. We lay in the midst of an unearthly quiet, while all about us
were signs and omens of oncoming sound and movement. The sultry heat
had become unendurable. The sweat was standing on my forehead, and I
could feel it trickling down my nose. I felt as though I should faint,
and reached out to the rail for support.
And then, just then, the faintest possible whisper of air
passed by. It was from the east, and like a whisper it came and
went. The drooping canvas was not stirred, and yet my face had felt
the air and been cooled.
"Cooky," Wolf Larsen called in a low voice. Thomas Mugridge
turned a pitiable scared face. "Let go that foreboom 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
"Mr. Van Weyden, stand by to pass the head-sails over. Then
jump for the topsails and spread them quick as God'll let you -
the quicker you do it the easier you'll find it. As for Cooky, if
he isn't lively bat him between the eyes."
I was aware of the compliment and pleased, in that no threat
had accompanied my instructions. We were lying head to north-west,
and it was his intention to jibe over all with the first puff.
"We'll have the breeze on our quarter," he explained to me.
"By the last guns the boats were bearing away slightly to
He turned and walked aft to the wheel. I went forward and took
my station at the jibs. Another whisper of wind, and another,
passed by. The canvas flapped lazily.
"Thank Gawd she's not comin' all of a bunch, Mr. Van Weyden," was the
Cockney's fervent ejaculation.
And I was indeed thankful, for I had by this time learned enough
to know, with all our canvas spread, what disaster in such event awaited
us. The whispers of wind became puffs, the sails filled, the Ghost
moved. Wolf Larsen put the wheel hard up, to port, and we began to pay
off. The wind was now dead astern, muttering and puffing stronger and
stronger, and my head-sails were pounding lustily. I did not see what
went on elsewhere, though I felt the sudden surge and heel of the schooner as
the wind-pressures changed to the jibing of the fore- and main-sails.
My hands were full with the flying-jib, jib, and staysail; and by the time
this part of my task was accomplished the Ghost was leaping into the
south-west, the wind on her quarter and all her sheets to starboard.
Without pausing for breath, though my heart was beating like a
trip-hammer from my exertions, I sprang to the topsails, and before the
wind had become too strong we had them fairly set and were coiling
down. Then I went aft for orders.
Wolf Larsen nodded approval and relinquished the wheel to me.
The wind was 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
"Now take a run up with the glasses and raise some of the boats. We've
made at least ten knots, and we're going twelve or thirteen now. The
old girl knows how to walk."
I contested 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
such frail craft could survive such stress of wind and water.
I could not feel the full force of the wind, for we were running with
it; but from my lofty perch I looked down as though outside the Ghost and
apart from her, and saw the shape of her outlined sharply against the foaming
sea as she tore along instinct with life. Sometimes she would lift and
send across some great wave, burying her starboard-rail from view, and
covering her deck to the hatches with the boiling ocean. At such
moments, starting from a windward roll, I would go flying through the air
with dizzying swiftness, as though I clung to the end of a huge,
inverted pendulum, the arc of which, between the greater rolls, must
have been seventy feet or more. Once, the terror of 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
But the thought of the men in the midst of it steadied me, and in my
quest for them I forgot myself. For an hour I saw nothing but the
naked, desolate sea. And then, where a vagrant shaft of sunlight struck
the ocean and turned its surface to wrathful silver, I caught a small black
speck thrust skyward for an instant and swallowed up. I waited
patiently. Again the tiny point of black projected itself through the
wrathful blaze a couple of points off our port-bow. I did not attempt
to shout, but communicated the news to Wolf Larsen by waving my arm. He
changed the course, and I signalled affirmation when the speck showed
It grew larger, and so swiftly that for the first time I
fully appreciated the speed of our flight. Wolf Larsen motioned for
me to come down, and when I stood beside him at the wheel gave
me instructions for heaving to.
"Expect all hell to break loose," he cautioned me, "but don't
mind it. Yours is to do your own work and to have Cooky stand by
I managed to make my way forward, but there was little choice of sides,
for the weather-rail seemed buried as often as the lee. Having instructed
Thomas Mugridge as to what he was to do, I clambered into the fore-rigging a
few feet. The boat was now very close, and I could make out plainly
that it was lying head to wind and sea and dragging on its mast and sail,
which had been thrown overboard and made to serve as a sea-anchor. The
three men were bailing. Each rolling mountain 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
The Ghost suddenly changed her course, keeping away, and it came to me
with a shock that Wolf Larsen was giving up the rescue as impossible.
Then I realized that he was preparing to heave to, and dropped to the deck to
be in readiness. We were now dead before the wind, the boat far away
and abreast of us. I felt an abrupt easing of the schooner, a loss for
the moment of all strain and pressure, coupled with a swift acceleration of
speed. She was rushing around on her heel into the wind.
As she arrived at right angles to the sea, the full force of the wind
(from which we had hitherto run away) caught us. I was unfortunately
and ignorantly facing it. It stood up against me like a wall, filling
my lungs with air which I could not expel. And as I choked and strangled, and
as the Ghost wallowed for an instant, broadside on and rolling straight over
and far into the wind, I beheld a huge sea rise far above my head. I
turned aside, caught my breath, and looked again. The wave over-topped
the Ghost, and I gazed sheer up and into it. A shaft of sunlight
smote the over-curl, and I caught a glimpse of translucent, rushing green,
backed by a milky smother of foam.
Then it descended, pandemonium broke loose, everything happened
at once. I was struck a crushing, stunning blow, nowhere
in particular and yet everywhere. My hold had been broken loose,
I was under water, and the thought passed through my mind that this was
the terrible thing of which I had heard, the being swept in the trough of the
sea. My body struck and pounded as it was dashed helplessly along and
turned over and over, and when I could hold my breath no longer, I breathed
the stinging salt water into my lungs. But through it all I clung to the one
idea - I MUST GET THE JIB BACKED OVER TO WINDWARD. I had no fear of
death. I had no doubt but that I should come through somehow. And
as this idea of fulfilling Wolf Larsen's order persisted in my dazed
consciousness, I seemed to see him standing at the wheel in the midst of the
wild welter, pitting his will against the will of the storm and
I brought up violently against what I took to be the rail, breathed, and
breathed the sweet air again. I tried to rise, but struck my head and
was knocked back on hands and knees. By some freak of the waters I had
been swept clear under the forecastle- head and into the eyes. As I
scrambled out on all fours, I passed over the body of Thomas Mugridge, who
lay in a groaning heap. There was no time to investigate. I must get
the jib backed over.
When I emerged on deck it seemed that the end of everything
had come. On all sides there was a rending and crashing of wood
and steel and canvas. The Ghost was being wrenched and torn
to fragments. The foresail and fore-topsail, emptied of the wind
by the manoeuvre, and with no one to bring in the sheet in time,
were thundering into ribbons, the heavy boom threshing and
splintering from rail to rail. The air was thick with flying
wreckage, detached ropes and stays were hissing and coiling like snakes,
and down through it all crashed the gaff of the foresail.
The spar could not have missed me by many inches, while it spurred me to
action. Perhaps the situation was not hopeless. I remembered Wolf
Larsen's caution. He had expected all hell to break loose, and here it
was. And where was he? I caught sight of him toiling at the
main-sheet, heaving it in and flat with his tremendous muscles, the stern of
the schooner lifted high in the air and his body outlined against a white
surge of sea sweeping past. All this, and more, - a whole world of
chaos and wreck, - in possibly fifteen seconds I had seen and heard and
I did not stop to see what had become of the small boat, but sprang to
the jib-sheet. The jib itself was beginning to slap, partially 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. I pulled till I burst open
the ends of all my fingers; and while I pulled, the flying-jib and staysail
split their cloths apart and thundered into nothingness.
Still I pulled, holding what I gained each time with a double turn until
the next slap gave me more. Then the sheet gave with greater ease, and
Wolf Larsen was beside me, heaving in alone while I was busied taking up the
"Make fast!" he shouted. "And come on!"
As I followed him, I noted that in spite of rack and ruin a rough order
obtained. The Ghost was hove to. She was still in working order,
and she was still working. Though the rest of her sails were gone, the
jib, backed to windward, and the mainsail hauled down flat, were themselves
holding, and holding her bow to the furious sea as well.
I looked for the boat, and, while Wolf Larsen cleared the boat- tackles,
saw it lift to leeward on a big sea an 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 either end and hoist it
aboard. But this was not done so easily as it is written.
In the bow was Kerfoot, Oofty-Oofty in the stern, and
Kelly amidships. As we drifted closer the boat would rise on a
wave while we sank in the trough, till almost straight above me I
could see the heads of the three men craned overside and looking
down. Then, the next moment, we would lift and soar upward while they sank
far down beneath us. It seemed incredible that the next surge should
not crush the Ghost down upon the tiny eggshell.
But, at the right moment, I passed the tackle to the Kanaka, while Wolf
Larsen did the same thing forward to Kerfoot. Both tackles were hooked
in a trice, and the three men, deftly timing the roll, made a simultaneous
leap aboard the schooner. As the Ghost rolled her side out of water,
the boat was lifted snugly against her, and before the return roll came, we
had heaved it in over the side and turned it bottom up on the deck. I
noticed blood spouting from Kerfoot's left hand. In some way the third
finger had been crushed to a pulp. But he gave no sign of pain, and
with his single right hand helped us lash the boat in its place.
"Stand by to let that jib over, you Oofty!" Wolf Larsen commanded, the
very second we had finished with the boat. "Kelly, come aft and slack
off the main-sheet! You, Kerfoot, go for'ard and see what's become of
Cooky! Mr. Van Weyden, run aloft again, and cut away any stray stuff on
And having commanded, he went aft with his peculiar tigerish leaps to
the wheel. While I toiled up the fore-shrouds the Ghost slowly paid
off. This time, as we went into the trough of the sea and were swept,
there were no sails to carry away. And, halfway to the crosstrees and
flattened against the rigging by the full force of the wind so that it would
have been impossible for me to have fallen, the Ghost almost on her beam-ends
and the masts parallel with the water, I looked, not down, but at almost
right angles from the perpendicular, to the deck of the Ghost. But I
saw, not the deck, but where the deck should have been, for it was
buried beneath a wild tumbling of water. Out of this water I could
see the two masts rising, and that was all. The Ghost, for the
moment, was buried beneath the sea. As she squared off more and
more, escaping from the side pressure, she righted herself and broke
her deck, like a whale's back, through the ocean surface.
Then we raced, and wildly, across the wild sea, the while I hung like a
fly in the crosstrees and searched for the other boats. In half-an-hour
I sighted the second one, swamped and bottom up, to which were desperately
clinging Jock Horner, fat Louis, and Johnson. This time I remained
aloft, and Wolf Larsen succeeded in heaving to without being swept. As
before, we drifted down upon it. 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
Once more the Ghost bore away before the storm, this time so submerging
herself that for some seconds I thought she would never reappear. Even
the wheel, quite a deal higher than the waist, was covered and swept again
and again. At such moments I felt strangely alone with God, alone with
him and watching the chaos of his wrath. And then the wheel would
reappear, and Wolf Larsen's broad shoulders, his hands gripping the spokes
and holding the schooner to the course of his will, himself an
earth-god, dominating the storm, flinging its descending waters from him
and riding it to his own ends. And oh, the marvel of it! the marvel
of it! That tiny men should live and breathe and work, and drive
so frail a contrivance of wood and cloth through so tremendous
an elemental strife.
As before, the Ghost swung out of the trough, lifting her deck again out
of the sea, and dashed before the howling blast. It was now half-past
five, and half-an-hour later, when the last of the day lost itself in a dim
and furious twilight, I sighted a third boat. It was bottom up, and
there was no sign of its crew. Wolf Larsen repeated his manoeuvre,
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.
"Number four boat!" Oofty-Oofty cried, his keen eyes reading its number
in the one second when it lifted clear of the foam, and upside down.
It was Henderson's boat and with him had been lost Holyoak and Williams,
another of the deep-water crowd. Lost they indubitably were; but the
boat remained, and Wolf Larsen made one more reckless effort to recover
it. I had come down to the deck, and I saw Horner and Kerfoot vainly
protest against the attempt.
"By God, I'll not be robbed of my boat by any storm that ever blew out
of hell!" he shouted, and though we four stood with our heads together that
we might hear, his voice seemed faint and far, as though removed from us an
"Mr. Van Weyden!" he cried, and I heard through the tumult as one might
hear a whisper. "Stand by that jib with Johnson and Oofty! The rest of
you tail aft to the mainsheet! Lively now! or I'll sail you all into
Kingdom Come! Understand?"
And when he put the wheel hard over and the Ghost's bow swung off, there
was nothing for the hunters to do but obey and make the best of a risky
chance. How great the risk I realized when I was once more buried
beneath the pounding seas and clinging for life to the pinrail at the foot of
the foremast. My fingers were torn loose, and I swept across to the
side and over the side into the sea. I could not swim, but before I
could sink I was swept back again. A strong hand gripped me, and when
the Ghost finally emerged, I found that I owed my life to Johnson. I
saw him looking anxiously about him, and noted that Kelly, who had come
forward at the last moment, was missing.
This time, having missed the boat, and not being in the same position as
in the previous instances, Wolf Larsen was compelled to resort to a different
manoeuvre. Running off before the wind with everything to starboard, he
came about, and returned close-hauled on the port tack.
"Grand!" Johnson shouted in my ear, as we successfully came through the
attendant deluge, and I knew he referred, not to Wolf Larsen's seamanship,
but to the performance of the Ghost herself.
It was now so dark that there was no sign of the boat; but Wolf Larsen
held back through the frightful turmoil as if guided by unerring
instinct. This time, though we were continually half- buried, there was
no trough in which to be swept, and we drifted squarely down upon the
upturned boat, badly smashing it as it was heaved inboard.
Two hours of terrible work followed, in which all hands of us -
two hunters, three sailors, Wolf Larsen and I - reefed, first one and then
the other, the jib and mainsail. Hove to under this short canvas, our
decks were comparatively free of water, while the Ghost bobbed and ducked
amongst the combers like a cork.
I had burst open the ends of my fingers at the very first, and during
the reefing I had worked with tears of pain running down my cheeks. And
when all was done, I gave up like a woman and rolled upon the deck in the
agony of exhaustion.
In the meantime Thomas Mugridge, like a drowned rat, was being dragged
out from under the forecastle head where he had cravenly ensconced
himself. I saw him pulled aft to the cabin, and noted with a shock of
surprise that the galley had disappeared. A clean space of deck showed
where it had stood.
In the cabin I found all hands assembled, sailors as well, and while
coffee was being cooked over the small stove we drank whisky and crunched
hard-tack. 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 cabins as though it had been the deck.
"To hell with a look-out," I heard Wolf Larsen say when we had eaten and
drunk our fill. "There's nothing can be done on deck. If anything's
going to run us down we couldn't get out of its way. Turn in, all hands, and
get some sleep."
The sailors slipped forward, setting the side-lights as they went, while
the two hunters remained to sleep in the cabin, it not being deemed advisable
to open the slide to the steerage companion-way. Wolf Larsen and I, between
us, cut off Kerfoot's crushed finger and sewed up the stump. Mugridge,
who, during all the time he had been compelled to cook and serve coffee and
keep the fire going, had complained of internal pains, now swore that he had
a broken rib or two. On examination we found that he had three.
But his case was deferred to next day, principally for the reason that I did
not know anything about broken ribs and would first have to read it up.
"I don't think it was worth it," I said to Wolf Larsen, "a broken boat
for Kelly's life."
"But Kelly didn't amount to much," was the reply. "Good-night."
After all that had passed, suffering intolerable anguish in
my finger-ends, and with three boats missing, to say nothing of the wild
capers the Ghost was cutting, I should have thought it impossible to
sleep. But my eyes must have closed the instant my head touched the
pillow, and in utter exhaustion I slept throughout the night, the while the
Ghost, lonely and undirected, fought her way through the storm.
The next day, while the storm was blowing itself out, Wolf Larsen and I
crammed anatomy and surgery and set Mugridge's ribs. Then, when the
storm broke, Wolf Larsen cruised back and forth over that portion of the
ocean where we had encountered it, and somewhat more to the westward, while
the boats were being repaired and new sails made and bent. 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 they
had picked up and which did not belong to them. For the thick of the
fleet had been to the westward of us, and the boats, scattered far and wide,
had headed in mad flight for the nearest refuge.
Two of our boats, with men all safe, we took off the Cisco, and, to Wolf
Larsen's huge delight and my own grief, he culled Smoke, with Nilson and
Leach, from the San Diego. So that, at the end of five days, we found
ourselves short but four men - Henderson, Holyoak, Williams, and Kelly, - and
were once more hunting on the flanks of the herd.
As we followed it north we began to encounter the dreaded sea-fogs. Day
after day the boats lowered and were swallowed up almost ere 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 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
Thomas Mugridge, so strangely and pertinaciously clinging to life, was
soon limping about again and performing his double duties of cook and
cabin-boy. Johnson and Leach were bullied and beaten as much as ever,
and they looked for their lives to end with the end of the hunting season;
while the rest of the crew lived the lives of dogs and were worked like dogs
by their pitiless master. As for Wolf Larsen and myself, 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
One diversion of his, when we were in the midst of the herd and the sea
was too rough to lower the boats, was to lower with two boat- pullers and a
steerer and go out himself. He was a good shot, too, and brought many a
skin aboard under what the hunters termed impossible hunting
conditions. It seemed the breath of his nostrils, this carrying his
life in his hands and struggling for it against tremendous odds.
I was learning more and more seamanship; and one clear day - a thing we
rarely encountered now - I had the satisfaction of running and handling the
Ghost and picking up the boats myself. Wolf Larsen had been smitten
with one of his headaches, and I stood at the wheel from morning until
evening, sailing across the ocean after the last lee boat, and heaving to and
picking it and the other five up without command or suggestion from
Gales we encountered now and again, for it was a raw and stormy region,
and, in the middle of June, a typhoon most memorable to me and most important
because of the changes wrought through it upon my future. We must have
been caught nearly at the centre of this circular storm, and Wolf Larsen ran
out of it and to the southward, first under a double-reefed jib, and finally
under bare poles. Never had I imagined so great a sea. The seas
previously encountered were as ripples compared with these, which ran a
half- mile from crest to crest and which upreared, I am confident,
above our masthead. So great was it that Wolf Larsen himself did
not dare heave to, though he was being driven far to the southward and out
of the seal herd.
We must have been well in the path of the trans-Pacific 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 the pitiful slaughter through the long day.
It was at this time that I was approached by Leach. I had
just finished tallying the skins of the last boat aboard, when he came to
my side, in the darkness, and said in a low tone:
"Can you tell me, Mr. Van Weyden, how far we are off the coast, and what
the bearings of Yokohama are?"
My heart leaped with gladness, for I knew what he had in mind, and I
gave him the bearings - west-north-west, and five hundred miles away.
"Thank you, sir," was all he said as he slipped back into
Next morning No. 3 boat and Johnson and Leach were missing.
The water-breakers 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- north-west, 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 look-out.
The wind was fair but fitful, and it was like looking for a needle in a
haystack to raise that tiny boat out of the blue immensity. But he put the
Ghost through her best paces so as to get between the deserters and the
land. This accomplished, he cruised back and forth across what he knew
must be their course.
On the morning of the third day, shortly after eight bells, a cry that
the boat was sighted came down from Smoke at the masthead. All hands lined
the rail. A snappy breeze was blowing from the west with the promise of
more wind behind it; and there, to leeward, in the troubled silver of the
rising sun, appeared and disappeared a black speck.
We squared away and ran for it. My heart was as lead. I
felt myself turning sick in anticipation; and as I looked at the gleam of
triumph in Wolf Larsen's eyes, his form swam before me, and I felt almost
irresistibly impelled to fling myself upon him. So unnerved was I by
the thought of impending violence to Leach and Johnson that my reason must
have left me. I know that I slipped down into the steerage in a daze,
and that I was just beginning the ascent to the deck, a loaded shot-gun in my
hands, when I heard the startled cry:
"There's five men in that boat!"
I supported myself in the companion-way, weak and trembling, while the
observation was being verified by the remarks of the rest of the men.
Then my knees gave from under me and I sank down, myself again, but overcome
by shock at knowledge of what I had so nearly done. Also, I was very
thankful as I put the gun away and slipped back on deck.
No one had remarked my absence. The boat was near enough for us
to make out that it was larger than any sealing boat and built
on different lines. As we drew closer, the sail was taken in and
the mast unstepped. Oars were shipped, and its occupants waited for
us to heave to and take them aboard.
Smoke, who had descended to the deck and was now standing by my side,
began to chuckle in a significant way. I looked at
"Talk of a mess!" he giggled.
"What's wrong?" I demanded.
Again he chuckled. "Don't you see there, in the stern-sheets,
on the bottom? May I never shoot a seal again if that ain't a
I looked closely, but was not sure until exclamations broke out on all
sides. The boat contained four men, and its fifth occupant
was certainly a woman. We were agog with excitement, all except
Wolf Larsen, who was too evidently disappointed in that it was not his own
boat with the two victims of his malice.
We ran down the flying jib, hauled the jib-sheets to wind-ward and the
main-sheet 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 burnt
the face scarlet.
She seemed to me like a being from another world. I was aware of
a hungry out-reaching 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 new-comers aboard. For when one of the sailors lifted her into Wolf
Larsen's downstretched arms, she looked up into our curious faces and smiled
amusedly and sweetly, as only a woman can smile, and as I had seen no one
smile for so long that I had forgotten such smiles existed.
"Mr. Van Weyden!"
Wolf Larsen's voice brought me sharply back to myself.
"Will you take the lady below and see to her comfort? Make up
that spare port cabin. Put Cooky to work on it. And see what you
can do for that face. It's burned badly."
He turned brusquely away from us and began to question the new men. The
boat was cast adrift, though one of them called it a "bloody shame" with
Yokohama so near.
I found myself strangely afraid of this woman I was escorting aft. Also
I was awkward. It seemed to me that I was realizing for the first time
what a delicate, fragile creature a woman is; and as I caught her arm to help
her down the companion stairs, I was startled by its smallness and
softness. Indeed, she was a slender, delicate woman as women go, but to
me she was so ethereally slender and delicate that I was quite prepared for
her arm to crumble in my grasp. All this, in frankness, to show my
first impression, after long denial of women in general and of Maud Brewster
"No need to go to any great trouble for me," she protested, when I had
seated her in Wolf Larsen's arm-chair, which I had dragged hastily from his
cabin. "The men were looking for land at any moment this morning, and
the vessel should be in by night; don't you think so?"
Her simple faith in the immediate future took me aback. How
could I explain to her the situation, the strange man who stalked the
sea like Destiny, all that it had taken me months to learn? But
I answered honestly:
"If it were any other captain except ours, I should say you would be
ashore in Yokohama to-morrow. But our captain is a strange man, and I
beg of you to be prepared for anything - understand? - for anything."
"I - I confess I hardly do understand," she hesitated, a perturbed but
not frightened expression in her eyes. "Or is it a misconception of
mine that shipwrecked people are always shown every consideration? This
is such a little thing, you know. We are so close to land."
"Candidly, I do not know," I strove to reassure her. "I
wished merely to prepare you for the worst, if the worst is to come.
This man, this captain, is a brute, a demon, and one can never tell
what will be his next fantastic act."
I was growing excited, but she interrupted me with an "Oh, I see," and
her voice sounded weary. To think was patently an effort. She was
clearly on the verge of physical collapse.
She asked no further questions, and I vouchsafed no remark, 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
The wind was freshening rapidly, the Ghost heeling over more and more,
and by the time the state-room was ready she was dashing through the water at
a lively clip. I had quite forgotten the existence of Leach and
Johnson, when suddenly, like a thunderclap, "Boat ho!" came down the open
companion-way. It was Smoke's unmistakable voice, crying from the
masthead. I shot a glance at the woman, but she was leaning back in the
arm-chair, her eyes closed, unutterably tired. I doubted that she had
heard, and I resolved to prevent her seeing the brutality I knew would
follow the capture of the deserters. She was tired. Very
good. She should sleep.
There were swift commands on deck, a stamping of feet and a slapping of
reef-points as the Ghost shot into the wind and about on the other
tack. As she filled away and heeled, the arm-chair began to slide
across the cabin floor, and I sprang for it just in time to prevent the
rescued woman from being spilled out.
Her eyes were too heavy to suggest more than a hint of the
sleepy surprise that perplexed her as she looked up at me, and she
half stumbled, half tottered, as I led her to her cabin.
Mugridge grinned insinuatingly in my face as I shoved him out and
ordered him back to his galley work; and he won his revenge by
spreading glowing reports among the hunters as to what an excellent
"lydy's- myde" I was proving myself to be.
She leaned heavily against me, and I do believe that she had
fallen asleep again between the arm-chair 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 spritsail close-hauled on the same tack
ahead of us. All hands were on deck, for they knew that something was
to happen when Leach and Johnson were dragged aboard.
It was four bells. Louis came aft to relieve the wheel. There
was a dampness in the air, and I noticed he had on his oilskins.
"What are we going to have?" I asked him.
"A healthy young slip of a gale from the breath iv it, sir,"
he answered, "with a splatter iv rain just to wet our gills an'
"Too bad we sighted them," I said, as the Ghost's bow was flung off a
point by a large sea and the boat leaped for a moment past the jibs and into
our line of vision.
Louis gave a spoke and temporized. "They'd never iv made the
land, sir, I'm thinkin'."
"Think not?" I queried.
"No, sir. Did you feel that?" (A puff had caught the
schooner, and he was forced to put the wheel up rapidly to keep her out
of the wind.) "'Tis no egg-shell'll float on this sea an hour
come, an' it's a stroke iv luck for them we're here to pick 'em up."
Wolf Larsen strode aft from amidships, where he had been talking with
the rescued men. The cat-like springiness in his tread was a little
more pronounced than usual, and his eyes were bright and snappy.
"Three oilers and a fourth engineer," was his greeting. "But
we'll make sailors out of them, or boat-pullers at any rate. Now,
what of the lady?"
I know not why, but I was aware of a twinge or pang like the cut of a
knife when he mentioned her. I thought it a certain
silly fastidiousness on my part, but it persisted in spite of me, and
I merely shrugged my shoulders in answer.
Wolf Larsen pursed his lips in a long, quizzical whistle.
"What's her name, then?" he demanded.
"I don't know," I replied. "She is asleep. She was very
tired. In fact, I am waiting to hear the news from you. What vessel
"Mail steamer," he answered shortly. "The City of Tokio,
from 'Frisco, bound for Yokohama. Disabled in that typhoon. Old
tub. Opened up top and bottom like a sieve. They were adrift four
days. And you don't know who or what she is, eh? - maid, wife, or
widow? Well, well."
He shook his head in a bantering way, and regarded me with
"Are you - " I began. It was on the verge of my tongue to ask
if he were going to take the castaways into Yokohama.
"Am I what?" he asked.
"What do you intend doing with Leach and Johnson?"
He shook his head. "Really, Hump, I don't know. You see,
with these additions I've about all the crew I want."
"And they've about all the escaping they want," I said. "Why
not give them a change of treatment? Take them aboard, and deal
gently with them. Whatever they have done they have been hounded
"By you," I answered steadily. "And I give you warning,
Wolf Larsen, that I may forget love of my own life in the desire to
kill you if you go too far in maltreating those poor wretches."
"Bravo!" he cried. "You do me proud, Hump! You've found your
legs with a vengeance. You're quite an individual. You
were unfortunate in having your life cast in easy places, but
you're developing, and I like you the better for it."
His voice and expression changed. His face was serious. "Do
you believe in promises?" he asked. "Are they sacred things?"
"Of course," I answered.
"Then here's a compact," he went on, consummate actor. "If
I promise not to lay my hands upon Leach will you promise, in turn, not to
attempt to kill me?"
"Oh, not that I'm afraid of you, not that I'm afraid of you,"
he hastened to add.
I could hardly believe my ears. What was coming over the man?
"Is it a go?" he asked impatiently.
"A go," I answered.
His hand went out to mine, and as I shook it heartily I could have sworn
I saw the mocking devil shine up for a moment in his eyes.
We strolled across the poop to the lee side. The boat was close
at hand now, and in desperate plight. Johnson was steering,
Leach bailing. We overhauled them about two feet to their one.
Wolf Larsen motioned Louis to keep off slightly, and we dashed abreast of
the boat, not a score of feet to windward. The Ghost
blanketed it. The spritsail flapped emptily and the boat righted to an
even keel, causing the two men swiftly to change position. The
boat lost headway, and, as we lifted on a huge surge, toppled and
fell into the trough.
It was at this moment that Leach and Johnson looked up into the faces of
their shipmates, who lined the rail amidships. There was no
greeting. They were as dead men in their comrades' eyes, and between
them was the gulf that parts the living and the dead.
The next instant they were opposite the poop, where stood Wolf Larsen
and I. We were falling in the trough, 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 strong as ever on his
Then they were gone astern. The spritsail filled with the
wind, suddenly, careening the frail open craft till it seemed it
would surely capsize. A whitecap foamed above it and broke across in
a snow-white smother. Then the boat emerged, half swamped,
Leach flinging the water out and Johnson clinging to the steering-oar, his
face white and anxious.
Wolf Larsen barked a short laugh in my ear and strode away to
the weather side of the poop. I expected him to give orders for
the Ghost to heave to, but she kept on her course and he made no
sign. Louis stood 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 he went about on the starboard
Back we held, two miles and more to windward of the
struggling cockle-shell, when the flying jib was run down and the
schooner hove to. The sealing boats are not made for windward
work. Their hope lies in keeping a weather position so that they may
run before the wind for the schooner when it breezes up. But in all
that wild waste there was no refuge for Leach and Johnson save on the
Ghost, and they resolutely began the windward beat. It was slow work
in the heavy sea that was running. At any moment they were liable
to be overwhelmed by the hissing combers. Time and again
and countless times we watched the boat luff into the big whitecaps, lose
headway, and be flung back like a cork.
Johnson was a splendid seaman, and he knew as much about small boats as
he did about ships. At the end of an hour and a half he was nearly
alongside, standing past our stern on the last leg out, aiming to fetch us on
the next leg back.
"So you've changed your mind?" I heard Wolf Larsen mutter, half
to himself, half to them as though they could hear. "You want to
come aboard, eh? Well, then, just keep a-coming."
"Hard up with that helm!" he commanded Oofty-Oofty, the Kanaka, who had
in the meantime relieved Louis at the wheel.
Command followed command. As the schooner paid off, the fore-
and main-sheets were slacked away for fair wind. And before the
wind we were, and leaping, when Johnson, easing his sheet at
imminent peril, cut across our wake a hundred feet away. Again Wolf
Larsen laughed, at the same time beckoning them with his arm to follow. It
was evidently his intention to play with them, - a lesson, I took it, in lieu
of a beating, though a dangerous lesson, for the frail craft stood in
momentary danger of being overwhelmed.
Johnson squared away promptly and ran after us. There was
nothing else for him to do. Death stalked everywhere, and it was only
a matter of time when some one of those many huge seas would fall upon the
boat, roll over it, and pass on.
"'Tis the fear iv death at the hearts iv them," Louis muttered in my
ear, as I passed forward to see to taking in the flying jib
"Oh, he'll heave to in a little while and pick them up," I
answered cheerfully. "He's bent upon giving them a lesson, that's
Louis looked at me shrewdly. "Think so?" he asked.
"Surely," I answered. "Don't you?"
"I think nothing but iv my own skin, these days," was his answer. "An'
'tis with wonder I'm filled as to the workin' out iv things. A pretty mess
that 'Frisco whisky got me into, an' a prettier mess that woman's got you
into aft there. Ah, it's myself that knows ye for a blitherin'
"What do you mean?" I demanded; for, having sped his shaft, he
was turning away.
"What do I mean?" he cried. "And it's you that asks me! 'Tis
not what I mean, but what the Wolf 'll mean. The Wolf, I said,
"If trouble comes, will you stand by?" I asked impulsively, for he had
voiced my own fear.
"Stand by? 'Tis old fat Louis I stand by, an' trouble enough
it'll be. We're at the beginnin' iv things, I'm tellin' ye, the
bare beginnin' iv things."
"I had not thought you so great a coward," I sneered.
He favoured me with a contemptuous stare. "If I raised never
a hand for that poor fool," - pointing astern to the tiny sail, - "d'ye
think I'm hungerin' for a broken head for a woman I never laid me eyes upon
before this day?"
I turned scornfully away and went aft.
"Better get in those topsails, Mr. Van Weyden," Wolf Larsen said, as I
came on the poop.
I felt relief, at least as far as the two men were concerned.
It was clear he did not wish to run too far away from them. I
picked up hope at the thought and put the order swiftly into execution.
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
Still we increased our lead, and when the boat had dropped
astern several miles we hove to and waited. All eyes watched it
coming, even Wolf Larsen's; but he was the only unperturbed man
aboard. Louis, gazing fixedly, betrayed a trouble in his face he was
not quite able to hide.
The boat drew closer and closer, hurling along through the
seething green like a thing alive, lifting and sending and uptossing
across the huge-backed breakers, or disappearing behind them only to
rush into sight again and shoot skyward. It seemed impossible that
it could continue to live, yet with each dizzying sweep it did achieve the
impossible. A rain-squall drove past, and out of the flying wet the
boat emerged, almost upon us.
"Hard up, there!" Wolf Larsen shouted, himself springing to the wheel
and whirling it over.
Again the Ghost sprang away and raced before the wind, and for two hours
Johnson and Leach pursued us. We hove to and ran away, hove to and ran
away, and ever astern the struggling patch of sail tossed skyward and fell
into the rushing valleys. It was a quarter of a mile away when a thick
squall of rain veiled it from view. It never emerged. The wind
blew the air clear again, but no patch of sail broke the troubled
surface. I thought I saw, for an instant, the boat's bottom show black
in a breaking crest. At the best, that was all. For Johnson and
Leach the travail of existence had ceased.
The men remained grouped amidships. No one had gone below, and
no one was speaking. Nor were any looks being exchanged. Each
man seemed stunned - deeply contemplative, as it were, and, not
quite sure, trying to realize just what had taken place. Wolf
Larsen gave them little time for thought. He at once put the Ghost
upon her course - a course which meant the seal herd and not
Yokohama harbour. But the men were no longer eager as they pulled
and hauled, and I heard curses amongst them, which left their
lips smothered and as heavy and lifeless as were they. Not so was
it with the hunters. Smoke the irrepressible related a story,
and they descended into the steerage, bellowing with laughter.
As I passed to leeward of the galley on my way aft I was approached by
the engineer we had rescued. His face was white, his lips
"Good God! sir, what kind of a craft is this?" he cried.
"You have eyes, you have seen," I answered, almost brutally, what of the
pain and fear at my own heart.
"Your promise?" I said to Wolf Larsen.
"I was not thinking of taking them aboard when I made that promise," he
answered. "And anyway, you'll agree I've not laid my hands upon
"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
The remainder of the day passed uneventfully. The young slip of
a gale, having wetted our gills, proceeded to moderate. The
fourth engineer and the three oilers, after a warm interview with
Wolf Larsen, were furnished with outfits from the slop-chests,
assigned places under the hunters in the various boats and watches on
the vessel, and bundled forward into the forecastle. They
went protestingly, but their voices were not loud. They were awed
by what they had already seen of Wolf Larsen's character, while the tale
of woe they speedily heard in the forecastle took the last bit of rebellion
out of them.
Miss Brewster - we had learned her name from the engineer - slept on and
on. At supper I requested the hunters to lower their voices, so she was
not disturbed; and it was not till next morning that she made her
appearance. It had been my intention to have her meals served apart,
but Wolf Larsen put down his foot. Who was she that she should be too
good for cabin table and cabin society? had been his demand.
But her coming to the table had something amusing in it.
The hunters fell 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 wobbling, in time with their
jaws, like the ears of so many animals.
Wolf Larsen had little to say at first, doing no more than reply when he
was addressed. Not that he was abashed. Far from it. This woman
was a new type to him, a different breed from any he had ever known, and he
was curious. He studied her, his eyes rarely leaving her face unless to
follow the movements of her hands or shoulders. I studied her myself,
and though it was I who maintained the conversation, I know that I was a bit
shy, not quite self-possessed. His was the perfect poise, the supreme
confidence in self, which nothing could shake; and he was no more timid of
a woman than he was of storm and battle.
"And when shall we arrive at Yokohama?" she asked, turning to him and
looking him squarely in the eyes.
There it was, the question flat. The jaws stopped working,
the ears ceased wobbling, and though eyes remained glued on plates, each
man listened greedily for the answer.
"In four months, possibly three if the season closes early," Wolf Larsen
She caught her breath and stammered, "I - I thought - I was given to
understand that Yokohama was only a day's sail away. It - " Here she
paused and looked about the table at the circle of unsympathetic faces
staring hard at the plates. "It is not right," she concluded.
"That is a question you must settle with Mr. Van Weyden there,"
he replied, nodding to me with a mischievous twinkle. "Mr. Van
Weyden is what you may call an authority on such things as rights. Now
I, who am only a sailor, would look upon the situation
somewhat differently. It may possibly be your misfortune that you have
to remain with us, but it is certainly our good fortune."
He regarded her smilingly. Her eyes fell before his gaze, but
she lifted them again, and defiantly, to mine. I read the
unspoken question there: was it right? But I had decided that the
part I was to play must be a neutral one, so I did not answer.
"What do you think?" she demanded.
"That it is unfortunate, especially if you have any engagements falling
due in the course of the next several months. But, since you say that
you were voyaging to Japan for your health, I can assure you that it will
improve no better anywhere than aboard the Ghost."
I saw her eyes flash with indignation, and this time it was I
who dropped mine, while I felt my face flushing under her gaze. It
was cowardly, but what else could I do?
"Mr. Van Weyden speaks with the voice of authority," Wolf
I nodded my head, and she, having recovered herself,
"Not that he is much to speak of now," Wolf Larsen went on, "but he has
improved wonderfully. You should have seen him when he came
on board. A more scrawny, pitiful specimen of humanity one
could hardly conceive. Isn't that so, Kerfoot?"
Kerfoot, thus directly addressed, was startled into dropping his knife
on the floor, though he managed to grunt affirmation.
"Developed himself by peeling potatoes and washing dishes.
Again that worthy grunted.
"Look at him now. True, he is not what you would term
muscular, but still he has muscles, which is more than he had when he
came aboard. Also, he has legs to stand on. You would not think
so to look at him, but he was quite unable to stand alone at first."
The hunters were snickering, but she looked at me with a sympathy in her
eyes which more than compensated for Wolf Larsen's nastiness. In truth,
it had been so long since I had received sympathy that I was softened, and I
became then, and gladly, her willing slave. But I was angry with Wolf
Larsen. He was challenging my manhood with his slurs, challenging the
very legs he claimed to be instrumental in getting for me.
"I may have learned to stand on my own legs," I retorted. "But
I have yet to stamp upon others with them."
He looked at me insolently. "Your education is only
half completed, then," he said dryly, and turned to her.
"We are very hospitable upon the Ghost. Mr. Van Weyden
has discovered that. We do everything to make our guests feel at
home, eh, Mr. Van Weyden?"
"Even to the peeling of potatoes and the washing of dishes," I answered,
"to say nothing to wringing their necks out of very fellowship."
"I beg of you not to receive false impressions of us from Mr.
Van Weyden," he interposed with mock anxiety. "You will observe,
Miss Brewster, that he carries a dirk in his belt, a - ahem - a
most unusual thing for a ship's officer to do. While really
very estimable, Mr. Van Weyden is sometimes - how shall I say? - er
- quarrelsome, and harsh measures are necessary. He is
quite reasonable and fair in his calm moments, and as he is calm now
he will not deny that only yesterday he threatened my life."
I was well-nigh choking, and my eyes were certainly fiery. He
drew attention to me.
"Look at him now. He can scarcely control himself in
your presence. He is not accustomed to the presence of ladies
anyway. I shall have to arm myself before I dare go on deck with him."
He shook his head sadly, murmuring, "Too bad, too bad," while
the hunters burst into guffaws of laughter.
The deep-sea voices of these men, rumbling and bellowing in the confined
space, produced a wild effect. The whole setting was wild, and for the
first time, regarding this strange woman and realizing how incongruous she
was in it, I was aware of how much a part of it I was myself. I knew
these men and their mental processes, was one of them myself, living the
seal-hunting life, eating the seal-hunting fare, thinking, largely, the
seal-hunting thoughts. There was for me no strangeness to it, to the
rough clothes, the coarse faces, the wild laughter, and the lurching cabin
walls and swaying sea-lamps.
As I buttered a piece of bread 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
But she divined the mockery in Wolf Larsen's words, and again favoured
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
"I may be taken off by some passing vessel, perhaps,"
"There will be no passing vessels, except other sealing-schooners," Wolf
Larsen made answer.
"I have no clothes, nothing," she objected. "You hardly
realize, sir, that I am not a man, or that I am unaccustomed to the
vagrant, careless life which you and your men seem to lead."
"The sooner you get accustomed to it, the better," he said.
"I'll furnish you with cloth, needles, and thread," he added.
"I hope it will not be too dreadful a hardship for you to make yourself a
dress or two."
She made a wry pucker with her mouth, as though to advertise
her ignorance of dressmaking. That she was frightened and
bewildered, and that she was bravely striving to hide it, was quite plain
"I suppose you're like Mr. Van Weyden there, accustomed to having things
done for you. Well, I think doing a few things for yourself will hardly
dislocate any joints. By the way, what do you do for a living?"
She regarded him with amazement unconcealed.
"I mean no offence, 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
She shrugged her shoulders.
"Do you feed yourself? Or does some one else feed you?"
"I'm afraid some one else has fed me most of my life," she
laughed, trying bravely to enter into the spirit of his quizzing, though
I could see a terror dawning and growing in her eyes as she watched Wolf
"And I suppose some one else makes your bed for you?"
"I HAVE made beds," she replied.
She shook her head with mock ruefulness.
"Do you know what they do to poor men in the States, who, like you, do
not work for their living?"
"I am very ignorant," she pleaded. "What do they do to the
poor men who are like me?"
"They send them to jail. The crime of not earning a living,
in their case, is called vagrancy. If I were Mr. Van Weyden,
who harps eternally on questions of right and wrong, I'd ask, by
what right do you live when you do nothing to deserve living?"
"But as you are not Mr. Van Weyden, I don't have to answer, do I?"
She beamed upon him through her terror-filled eyes, and the pathos of it
cut me to the heart. I must in some way break in and lead the
conversation into other channels.
"Have you ever earned a dollar by your own labour?" he demanded, certain
of her answer, a triumphant vindictiveness in his voice.
"Yes, I have," she answered slowly, and I could have laughed aloud at
his crestfallen visage. "I remember my father giving me a dollar once,
when I was a little girl, for remaining absolutely quiet for five
He smiled indulgently.
"But that was long ago," she continued. "And you would
scarcely demand a little girl of nine to earn her own living."
"At present, however," she said, after another slight pause, "I earn
about eighteen hundred dollars a year."
With one accord, all eyes left the plates and settled on her.
A woman who earned eighteen hundred dollars a year was worth
looking at. Wolf Larsen was undisguised in his admiration.
"Salary, or piece-work?" he asked.
"Piece-work," she answered promptly.
"Eighteen hundred," he calculated. "That's a hundred and
fifty dollars a month. Well, Miss Brewster, there is nothing small
about the Ghost. Consider yourself on salary during the time you
remain with us."
She made no acknowledgment. She was too unused as yet to the
whims of the man to accept them with equanimity.
"I forgot to inquire," he went on suavely, "as to the nature of your
occupation. What commodities do you turn out? What tools
and materials do you require?"
"Paper and ink," she laughed. "And, oh! also a typewriter."
"You are Maud Brewster," I said slowly and with certainty, almost as
though I were charging her with a crime.
Her eyes lifted curiously to mine. "How do you know?"
"Aren't you?" I demanded.
She acknowledged her identity with a nod. It was Wolf
Larsen's turn to be puzzled. The name and its magic signified nothing
to him. I was proud that it did mean something to me, and for
the first time in a weary while I was convincingly conscious of
a superiority over him.
"I remember writing a review of a thin little volume - " I had begun
carelessly, when she interrupted me.
"You!" she cried. "You are - "
She was now staring at me in wide-eyed wonder.
I nodded my identity, in turn.
"Humphrey Van Weyden," she concluded; then added with a sigh of relief,
and unaware that she had glanced that relief at Wolf Larsen, "I am so
"I remember the review," she went on hastily, becoming aware of
the awkwardness of her remark; "that too, too flattering review."
"Not at all," I denied valiantly. "You impeach my sober
judgment and make my canons of little worth. Besides, all my
brother critics were with me. Didn't Lang include your 'Kiss
Endured' among the four supreme sonnets by women in the English
"But you called me the American Mrs. Meynell!"
"Was it not true?" I demanded.
"No, not that," she answered. "I was hurt."
"We can measure the unknown only by the known," I replied, in my finest
academic manner. "As a critic I was compelled to place you. You have
now become a yardstick yourself. Seven of your thin little volumes are
on my shelves; and there are two thicker volumes, the essays, which, you will
pardon my saying, and I know not which is flattered more, fully equal your
verse. The time is not far distant when some unknown will arise in
England and the critics will name her the English Maud Brewster."
"You are very kind, I am sure," she murmured; and the
very conventionality of her tones and words, with the host of associations
it aroused of the old life on the other side of the world, gave me a quick
thrill - rich with remembrance but stinging sharp with home-sickness.
"And you are Maud Brewster," I said solemnly, gazing across at her.
"And you are Humphrey Van Weyden," she said, gazing back at me
with equal solemnity and awe. "How unusual! I don't
understand. We surely are not to expect some wildly romantic sea-story
from your sober pen."
"No, I am not gathering material, I assure you," was my answer.
"I have neither aptitude nor inclination for fiction."
"Tell me, why have you always buried yourself in California?" she next
asked. "It has not been kind of you. We of the East have seen to
very little of you - too little, indeed, of the Dean of American Letters, the
I bowed to, and disclaimed, the compliment. "I nearly met
you, once, in Philadelphia, some Browning affair or other - you were
to lecture, you know. My train was four hours late."
And then we quite forgot where we were, leaving Wolf Larsen stranded and
silent in the midst of our flood of gossip. The hunters left the table
and went on deck, and still we talked. Wolf Larsen alone
remained. Suddenly I became aware of him, leaning back from the table
and listening curiously to our alien speech of a world he did not know.
I broke short off in the middle of a sentence. The present,
with all its perils and anxieties, rushed upon me with stunning force. It
smote Miss Brewster likewise, a vague and nameless terror rushing into her
eyes as she regarded Wolf Larsen.
He rose to his feet and laughed awkwardly. The sound of it
"Oh, don't mind me," he said, with a self-depreciatory wave of
his hand. "I don't count. Go on, go on, I pray you."
But the gates of speech were closed, and we, too, rose from the table
and laughed awkwardly.
The chagrin Wolf Larsen felt from being ignored by Maud Brewster and me
in the conversation at table had to express itself in some fashion, and it
fell to Thomas Mugridge to be the victim. He had not mended his ways
nor his shirt, though the latter he contended he had changed. The
garment itself did not bear out the assertion, nor did the accumulations of
grease on stove and pot and pan attest a general cleanliness.
"I've given you warning, Cooky," Wolf Larsen said, "and now you've got
to take your medicine."
Mugridge's face turned white under its sooty veneer, and when
Wolf Larsen called for a rope and a couple of men, the miserable
Cockney fled wildly out of the galley and dodged and ducked about the
deck with the grinning crew in pursuit. Few things could have been
more to their liking than to give him a tow over the side, for to
the forecastle he had sent messes and concoctions of the vilest
order. Conditions favoured the undertaking. The Ghost was
slipping through the water at no more than three miles an hour, and the
sea was fairly calm. But Mugridge had little stomach for a dip in
it. Possibly he had seen men towed before. Besides, the water
was frightfully cold, and his was anything but a rugged constitution.
As usual, the watches below and the hunters turned out for what promised
sport. Mugridge seemed to be in rabid fear of the water, and he
exhibited a nimbleness and speed we did not dream he possessed.
Cornered in the right-angle of the poop and galley, he sprang like a cat to
the top of the cabin and ran aft. But his pursuers forestalling him, he
doubled back across the cabin, passed over the galley, and gained the deck by
means of the steerage- scuttle. Straight forward he raced, the
boat-puller Harrison at his heels and gaining on him. But Mugridge,
leaping suddenly, caught the jib-boom-lift. It happened in an
instant. Holding his weight by his arms, and in mid-air doubling his
body at the hips, he let fly with both feet. The oncoming Harrison
caught the kick squarely in the pit of the stomach, groaned involuntarily,
and doubled up and sank backward to the deck.
Hand-clapping and roars of laughter from the hunters greeted
the exploit, while Mugridge, eluding half of his pursuers at the foremast,
ran aft and through the remainder like a runner on the football field.
Straight aft he held, to the poop and along the poop to the stern. So
great was his speed that as he curved past the corner of the cabin he slipped
and fell. Nilson was standing at the wheel, and the Cockney's hurtling
body struck his legs. Both went down together, but Mugridge alone
arose. By some freak of pressures, his frail body had snapped the
strong man's leg like a pipe-stem.
Parsons took the wheel, and the pursuit continued. Round and
round the decks they went, Mugridge sick with fear, the sailors
hallooing and shouting directions to one another, and the hunters
bellowing encouragement and laughter. Mugridge went down on the
fore-hatch under three men; but he emerged from the mass like an eel,
bleeding at the mouth, the offending shirt ripped into tatters, and
sprang for the main-rigging. Up he went, clear up, beyond the
ratlines, to the very masthead.
Half-a-dozen sailors swarmed to the crosstrees after him, where they
clustered and waited while two of their number, Oofty-Oofty and Black (who
was Latimer's boat-steerer), continued up the thin steel stays, lifting their
bodies higher and higher by means of their arms.
It was a perilous undertaking, for, at a height of over a hundred feet
from the deck, holding on by their hands, they were not in the best of
positions to protect themselves from Mugridge's feet. And Mugridge
kicked savagely, till the Kanaka, hanging on with one hand, seized the
Cockney's foot with the other. Black duplicated the performance a
moment later with the other foot. Then the three writhed together in a
swaying tangle, struggling, sliding, and falling into the arms of their mates
on the crosstrees.
The aerial battle was over, and Thomas Mugridge, whining and gibbering,
his mouth flecked with bloody foam, was brought down to 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 between each
lift the stern fell, and while the bow lazily climbed the next wave the line
slacked and he sank beneath.
I had forgotten the existence of Maud Brewster, and I remembered her
with a start as she stepped lightly beside me. It was her first time on
deck since she had come aboard. A dead silence greeted her
"What is the cause of the merriment?" she asked.
"Ask Captain Larsen," I answered composedly and coldly, though inwardly
my blood was boiling at the thought that she should be witness to such
She took my advice and was turning to put it into execution, when her
eyes lighted on Oofty-Oofty, immediately before her, his body instinct with
alertness and grace as he held the turn of the rope.
"Are you fishing?" she asked him.
He made no reply. His eyes, fixed intently on the sea
astern, suddenly flashed.
"Shark ho, sir!" he cried.
"Heave in! Lively! All hands tail on!" Wolf Larsen
shouted, springing himself to the rope in advance of the quickest.
Mugridge had heard the Kanaka's warning cry and was
screaming madly. I could see a black fin cutting the water and making
for him with greater swiftness than he was being pulled aboard. It
was an even toss whether the shark or we would get him, and it was
a matter of moments. When Mugridge was directly beneath us,
the stern descended the slope of a passing wave, thus giving the advantage
to the shark. The fin disappeared. The belly flashed white in
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.
But a fountain of blood was gushing forth. The right foot
was missing, amputated neatly at the ankle. I looked instantly to
Maud Brewster. Her face was white, her eyes dilated with horror.
She was gazing, not at Thomas Mugridge, but at Wolf Larsen. And he
was aware of it, for he said, with one of his short laughs:
"Man-play, Miss Brewster. Somewhat rougher, I warrant, than
what you have been used to, but still-man-play. The shark was not
in the reckoning. It - "
But at this juncture, Mugridge, who had lifted his head and ascertained
the extent of his loss, floundered over on the deck and buried his teeth in
Wolf Larsen's leg. Wolf Larsen stooped, coolly, to the Cockney, and
pressed with thumb and finger at the rear of the jaws and below the
ears. The jaws opened with reluctance, and Wolf Larsen stepped
"As I was saying," he went on, as though nothing unwonted had happened,
"the shark was not in the reckoning. It was - ahem - shall we say
She gave no sign that she had heard, though the expression of her eyes
changed to one of inexpressible loathing as she started to turn away.
She no more than started, for she swayed and tottered, and reached her hand
weakly out to mine. I caught her in time to save her from falling, and
helped her to a seat on the cabin. I thought she might faint outright,
but she controlled herself.
"Will you get a tourniquet, Mr. Van Weyden," Wolf Larsen called
I hesitated. Her lips moved, and though they formed no words,
she commanded me with her eyes, plainly as speech, to go to the help
of the unfortunate man. "Please," she managed to whisper, and I
could but obey.
By now I had developed such skill at surgery that Wolf Larsen, with a
few words of advice, left me to my task with a couple of sailors for
assistants. For his task he elected a vengeance on the shark. A heavy
swivel-hook, baited with fat salt-pork, was dropped overside; and by the time
I had compressed the severed veins and arteries, the sailors were singing and
heaving in the offending monster. I did not see it myself, but my
assistants, first one and then the other, deserted me for a few moments to
run amidships and look at what was going on. The shark, a
sixteen-footer, was hoisted up against the main-rigging. Its jaws were
pried apart to their greatest extension, and a stout stake, sharpened at
both ends, was so inserted that when the pries were removed the
spread jaws were fixed upon it. This accomplished, the hook was cut
out. The shark dropped back into the sea, helpless, yet with its
full strength, doomed - to lingering starvation - a living death less meet
for it than for the man who devised the punishment.
I knew what it was as she came toward me. For ten minutes I
had watched her talking earnestly with the engineer, and now, with a sign
for silence, I drew her out of earshot of the helmsman. Her face was
white and set; her large eyes, larger than usual what of the purpose in them,
looked penetratingly into mine. I felt rather timid and apprehensive,
for she had come to search Humphrey Van Weyden's soul, and Humphrey Van
Weyden had nothing of which to be particularly proud since his advent on the
We walked to the break of the poop, where she turned and faced me. I
glanced around to see that no one was within hearing distance.
"What is it?" I asked gently; but the expression of determination on her
face did not relax.
"I can readily understand," she began, "that this morning's affair was
largely an accident; but I have been talking with Mr. Haskins. He tells me
that the day we were rescued, even while I was in the cabin, two men were
drowned, deliberately drowned - murdered."
There was a query in her voice, and she faced me accusingly, as though I
were guilty of the deed, or at least a party to it.
"The information is quite correct," I answered. "The two men
"And you permitted it!" she cried.
"I was unable to prevent it, is a better way of phrasing it," I replied,
"But you tried to prevent it?" There was an emphasis on
the "tried," and a pleading little note in her voice.
"Oh, but you didn't," she hurried on, divining my answer. "But
why didn't you?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "You must remember, Miss Brewster,
that you are a new inhabitant of this little world, and that you do
not yet understand the laws which operate within it. You bring
with you certain fine conceptions of humanity, manhood, conduct, and such
things; but here you will find them misconceptions. I have found it
so," I added, with an involuntary sigh.
She shook her head incredulously.
"What would you advise, then?" I asked. "That I should take
a knife, or a gun, or an axe, and kill this man?"
She half started back.
"No, not that!"
"Then what should I do? Kill myself?"
"You speak in purely materialistic terms," she objected. "There
is such a thing as moral courage, and moral courage is never
"Ah," I smiled, "you advise me to kill neither him nor myself, but to
let him kill me." I held up my hand as she was about to speak. "For
moral courage is a worthless asset on this little floating world.
Leach, one of the men who were murdered, had moral courage to an unusual
degree. So had the other man, Johnson. Not only did it not stand
them in good stead, but it destroyed them. And so with me if I should
exercise what little moral courage I may possess.
"You must understand, Miss Brewster, and understand clearly, that this
man is a monster. He is without conscience. Nothing is sacred to
him, nothing is too terrible for him to do. It was due to his whim that
I was detained aboard in the first place. It is due to his whim that I
am still alive. I do nothing, can do nothing, because I am a slave to
this monster, as you are now a slave to him; because I desire to live, as you
will desire to live; because I cannot fight and overcome him, just as you
will not be able to fight and overcome him."
She waited for me to go on.
"What remains? Mine is the role of the weak. I remain silent
and suffer ignominy, as you will remain silent and suffer ignominy. And it
is well. It is the best we can do if we wish to live. The battle
is not always to the strong. We have not the strength with which to
fight this man; we must dissimulate, and win, if win we can, by craft.
If you will be advised by me, this is what you will do. I know my
position is perilous, and I may say frankly that yours is even more
perilous. We must stand together, without appearing to do so, in secret
alliance. I shall not be able to side with you openly, and, no matter
what indignities may be put upon me, you are to remain likewise silent.
We must provoke no scenes with this man, nor cross his will. And we
must keep smiling faces and be friendly with him no matter how repulsive it
She brushed her hand across her forehead in a puzzled way,
saying, "Still I do not understand."
"You must do as I say," I interrupted authoritatively, for I saw Wolf
Larsen's gaze wandering toward us from where he paced up and down with
Latimer amidships. "Do as I say, and ere long you will find I am
"What shall I do, then?" she asked, detecting the anxious glance I had
shot at the object of our conversation, and impressed, I flatter myself, with
the earnestness of my manner.
"Dispense with all the moral courage you can," I said briskly. "Don't
arouse this man's animosity. Be quite friendly with him, talk with him,
discuss literature and art with him - he is fond of such things. You
will find him an interested listener and no fool. And for your own sake try
to avoid witnessing, as much as you can, the brutalities of the ship.
It will make it easier for you to act your part."
"I am to lie," she said in steady, rebellious tones, "by speech
and action to lie."
Wolf Larsen had separated from Latimer and was coming toward us.
I was desperate.
"Please, please understand me," I said hurriedly, lowering
my voice. "All your experience of men and things is worthless
here. You must begin over again. I know, - I can see it - you
have, among other ways, been used to managing people with your
eyes, letting your moral courage speak out through them, as it were.
You have already managed me with your eyes, commanded me with them. But
don't try it on Wolf Larsen. You could as easily control a lion, while
he would make a mock of you. He would - I have always been proud of the
fact that I discovered him," I said, turning the conversation as Wolf Larsen
stepped on the poop and joined us. "The editors were afraid of him and the
publishers would have none of him. But I knew, and his genius and my
judgment were vindicated when he made that magnificent hit with his
"And it was a newspaper poem," she said glibly.
"It did happen to see the light in a newspaper," I replied, "but not
because the magazine editors had been denied a glimpse at it."
"We were talking of Harris," I said to Wolf Larsen.
"Oh, yes," he acknowledged. "I remember the 'Forge.' Filled
with pretty sentiments and an almighty faith in human illusions. By
the way, Mr. Van Weyden, you'd better look in on Cooky.
He's complaining and restless."
Thus was I bluntly dismissed from the poop, only to find
Mugridge sleeping soundly from the morphine I had given him. I made
no haste to return on deck, and when I did I was gratified to see
Miss Brewster in animated conversation with Wolf Larsen. As I say,
the sight gratified me. She was following my advice. And yet I
was conscious of a slight shock or hurt in that she was able to do
the thing I had begged her to do and which she had notably disliked.
Brave winds, blowing fair, swiftly drove the Ghost northward into the
seal herd. 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 nor take an
observation; then the wind would sweep the face of the ocean clean, the waves
would ripple and flash, and we would learn where we were. A day of
clear weather might follow, or three days or four, and then the fog would
settle down upon us, seemingly thicker than ever.
The hunting was perilous; yet the boats, lowered day after day, were
swallowed up in the grey 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 grey. 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 when we learned
that they had passed from schooner to schooner until they finally
regained their own.
This was the thing I had set my mind upon doing, but the opportunity
never offered. It was not in the mate's province to go out in the
boats, and though I manoeuvred 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
I had read sea-romances in my time, wherein figured, as a matter
of course, the lone woman in the midst of a shipload of men; but
I learned, now, that I had never comprehended the deeper significance of
such a situation - the thing the writers harped upon and exploited so
thoroughly. And here it was, now, and I was face to face with it.
That it should be as vital as possible, it required no more than that the
woman should be Maud Brewster, who now charmed me in person as she had long
charmed me through her work.
No one more out of environment could be imagined. She was
a delicate, ethereal creature, swaying and willowy, light and graceful of
movement. It never seemed to me that she walked, or, at least, walked
after the ordinary manner of mortals. Hers was an extreme
lithesomeness, and she moved with a certain indefinable airiness, approaching
one as down might float or as a bird on noiseless wings.
She was like a bit of Dresden china, and I was continually impressed
with what I may call her fragility. As at the time I caught her arm
when helping her below, so at any time I was quite prepared, should stress or
rough handling befall her, to see her crumble away. I have never seen
body and spirit in such perfect accord. Describe her verse, as the
critics have described it, as sublimated and spiritual, and you have
described her body. It seemed to partake of her soul, to have analogous
attributes, and to link it to life with the slenderest of chains.
Indeed, she trod the earth lightly, and in her constitution there was little
of the robust clay.
She was in striking contrast to Wolf Larsen. Each was nothing
that the other was, everything that the other was not. I noted
them walking the deck together one morning, and I likened them to
the extreme ends of the human ladder of evolution - the one
the culmination of all savagery, the other the finished product of
the finest civilization. True, Wolf Larsen possessed intellect to
an unusual degree, but it was directed solely to the exercise of
his savage instincts and made him but the more formidable a savage.
He was splendidly muscled, a heavy man, and though he strode with
the certitude and directness of the physical man, there was nothing heavy
about his stride. The jungle and the wilderness lurked in the uplift
and downput of his feet. He was cat-footed, and lithe, and strong,
always strong. I likened him to some great tiger, a beast of prowess
and prey. He looked it, and the piercing glitter that arose at times in
his eyes was the same piercing glitter I had observed in the eyes of caged
leopards and other preying creatures of the wild.
But this day, as I noted them pacing up and down, I saw that it was she
who terminated the walk. They came up to where I was standing by the
entrance to the companion-way. Though she betrayed it by no outward
sign, I felt, somehow, that she was greatly perturbed. She made some
idle remark, looking at me, and laughed lightly enough; but I saw her eyes
return to his, involuntarily, as though fascinated; then they fell, but not
swiftly enough to veil the rush of terror that filled them.
It was in his eyes that I saw the cause of her perturbation. Ordinarily
grey and cold and harsh, they were now warm and soft and golden, and all
a-dance with tiny lights that dimmed and faded, or welled up till the full
orbs were flooded with a glowing radiance. Perhaps it was to this that the
golden colour was due; but golden his eyes were, enticing and masterful, at
the same time luring and compelling, and speaking a demand and clamour of the
blood which no woman, much less Maud Brewster, could misunderstand.
Her own terror rushed upon me, and in that moment of fear - the most
terrible fear a man can experience - I knew that in inexpressible ways she
was dear to me. The knowledge that I loved her rushed upon me with the
terror, and with both emotions gripping at my heart and causing my blood at
the same time to chill and to leap riotously, I felt myself drawn by a power
without me and beyond me, and found my eyes returning against my will to gaze
into the eyes of Wolf Larsen. But he had recovered himself. The
golden colour and the dancing lights were gone. Cold and grey
and glittering they were as he bowed brusquely and turned away.
"I am afraid," she whispered, with a shiver. "I am so afraid."
I, too, was afraid, and what of my discovery of how much she meant to me
my mind was in a turmoil; but, I succeeded in answering quite calmly:
"All will come right, Miss Brewster. Trust me, it will
She answered with a grateful little smile that sent my heart pounding,
and started to descend the companion-stairs.
For a long while I remained standing where she had left me.
There was imperative need to adjust myself, to consider the
significance of the changed aspect of things. It had come, at last,
love had come, when I least expected it and under the most
forbidding conditions. Of course, my philosophy had always recognized
the inevitableness of the love-call sooner or later; but long years
of bookish silence had made me inattentive and unprepared.
And now it had come! Maud Brewster! My memory flashed back
to that first thin little volume on my desk, and I saw before me,
as though in the concrete, the row of thin little volumes on my library
shelf. How I had welcomed each of them! Each year one had come
from the press, and to me each was the advent of the year. They had voiced a
kindred intellect and spirit, and as such I had received them into a
camaraderie of the mind; but now their place was in my heart.
My heart? A revulsion of feeling came over me. I seemed to
stand outside myself and to look at myself incredulously. Maud
Brewster! Humphrey Van Weyden, "the cold-blooded fish," the
"emotionless monster," the "analytical demon," of Charley
Furuseth's christening, in love! And then, without rhyme or reason,
all sceptical, my mind flew back to a small biographical note in
the red-bound WHO'S WHO, and I said to myself, "She was born in Cambridge,
and she is twenty-seven years old." And then I said, "Twenty-seven
years old and still free and fancy free?" But how did I know she was
fancy free? And the pang of new-born jealousy put all incredulity to
flight. There was no doubt about it. I was jealous; therefore I
loved. And the woman I loved was Maud Brewster.
I, Humphrey Van Weyden, was in love! And again the doubt
assailed me. Not that I was afraid of it, however, or reluctant to meet
it. On the contrary, idealist that I was to the most pronounced degree, my
philosophy had always recognized and guerdoned love as the greatest thing in
the world, the aim and the summit of being, the most exquisite pitch of joy
and happiness to which life could thrill, the thing of all things to be
hailed and welcomed and taken into the heart. But now that it had come
I could not believe. I could not be so fortunate. It was too
good, too good to be true. Symons's lines came into my head:
"I wandered all these years among A world of women, seeking
And then I had ceased seeking. It was not for me, this
greatest thing in the world, I had decided. Furuseth was right; I
was abnormal, an "emotionless monster," a strange bookish
creature, capable of pleasuring in sensations only of the mind. And
though I had been surrounded by women all my days, my appreciation of
them had been aesthetic 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 could have been no less than an ecstasy, I left
my post at the head of the companion-way and started along the
deck, murmuring to myself those beautiful lines of Mrs. Browning:
"I lived with visions for my company Instead of men and women years
ago, And found them gentle mates, nor thought to know A sweeter music than
they played to me."
But the sweeter music was playing in my ears, and I was blind
and oblivious to all about me. The sharp voice of Wolf Larsen
"What the hell are you up to?" he was demanding.
I had strayed forward where the sailors were painting, and I came to
myself to find my advancing foot on the verge of overturning
"Sleep-walking, sunstroke, - what?" he barked.
"No; indigestion," I retorted, and continued my walk as if
nothing untoward had occurred.
Among the most vivid memories of my life are those of the events on the
Ghost which occurred during the forty hours succeeding the discovery of my
love for Maud Brewster. I, who had lived my life in quiet places, only
to enter at the age of thirty-five upon a course 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
To begin with, at the midday dinner, Wolf Larsen informed the hunters
that they were to eat thenceforth in the steerage. It was an
unprecedented thing on sealing-schooners, where it is the custom for the
hunters to rank, unofficially as officers. He gave no reason, but his
motive was obvious enough. Horner and Smoke had been displaying a
gallantry toward Maud Brewster, ludicrous in itself and inoffensive to her,
but to him evidently distasteful.
The announcement was received with black silence, though the other four
hunters glanced significantly at the two who had been the cause of their
banishment. Jock Horner, quiet as was his way, gave no sign; but the
blood surged darkly across Smoke's forehead, and he half opened his mouth to
speak. Wolf Larsen was watching him, waiting for him, the steely
glitter in his eyes; but Smoke closed his mouth again without having said
"Anything to say?" the other demanded aggressively.
It was a challenge, but Smoke refused to accept it.
"About what?" he asked, so innocently that Wolf Larsen was disconcerted,
while the others smiled.
"Oh, nothing," Wolf Larsen said lamely. "I just thought you
might want to register a kick."
"About what?" asked the imperturbable Smoke.
Smoke's mates were now smiling broadly. His captain could
have killed him, and I doubt not that blood would have flowed had not Maud
Brewster been present. For that matter, it was her presence which
enabled Smoke to act as he did. He was too discreet and cautious
a man to incur Wolf Larsen's anger at a time when that anger could be
expressed in terms stronger than words. I was in fear that a struggle
might take place, but a cry from the helmsman made it easy for the situation
to save itself.
"Smoke ho!" the cry came down the open companion-way.
"How's it bear?" Wolf Larsen called up.
"Dead astern, sir."
"Maybe it's a Russian," suggested Latimer.
His words brought anxiety into the faces of the other hunters.
A Russian could mean but one thing - a cruiser. The hunters,
never more than roughly aware of the position of the ship,
nevertheless knew that we were close to the boundaries of the forbidden
sea, while Wolf Larsen's record as a poacher was notorious. All
eyes centred upon him.
"We're dead safe," he assured them with a laugh. "No salt
mines this time, Smoke. But I'll tell you what - I'll lay odds of
five to one it's the Macedonia."
No one accepted his offer, and he went on: "In which event,
I'll lay ten to one there's trouble breezing up."
"No, thank you," Latimer spoke up. "I don't object to losing
my money, but I like to get a run for it anyway. There never was
a time when there wasn't trouble when you and that brother of yours got
together, and I'll lay twenty to one on that."
A general smile followed, in which Wolf Larsen joined, and the dinner
went on smoothly, thanks to me, for he treated me abominably the rest of the
meal, sneering at me and patronizing me till I was all a-tremble with
suppressed rage. Yet I knew I must control myself for Maud Brewster's
sake, and I received my reward when her eyes caught mine for a fleeting
second, and they said, as distinctly as if she spoke, "Be brave, be
We left the table to go on deck, for a steamer was a welcome break in
the monotony of the sea on which we floated, while the conviction that it was
Death Larsen and the Macedonia added to the excitement. The stiff
breeze and heavy sea which had sprung up the previous afternoon had been
moderating all 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 smoke was still miles astern, but overhauling us rapidly, when we
lowered our boats. They spread out and struck a northerly course across
the ocean. Now and again we saw a sail lower, heard the reports of the
shot-guns, and saw the sail go up again. The seals were thick, the wind
was dying away; everything favoured 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
Under the approaching smoke the hull and upper-works of a steamer were
growing larger. It was the Macedonia. I read her name through the
glasses as she passed by scarcely a mile to starboard. Wolf Larsen looked
savagely at the vessel, while Maud Brewster was curious.
"Where is the trouble you were so sure was breezing up, Captain Larsen?"
she asked gaily.
He glanced at her, a moment's amusement softening his features.
"What did you expect? That they'd come aboard and cut
"Something like that," she confessed. "You understand,
seal- hunters are so new and strange to me that I am quite ready to expect
He nodded his head. "Quite right, quite right. Your error is
that you failed to expect the worst."
"Why, what can be worse than cutting our throats?" she asked,
with pretty naive surprise.
"Cutting our purses," he answered. "Man is so made these days
that his capacity for living is determined by the money he possesses."
"'Who steals my purse steals trash,'" she quoted.
"Who 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."
"But I fail to see that this steamer has any designs on
"Wait and you will see," he answered grimly.
We did 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 it.
Our boats hunted across the two or three miles of water between them and
the point where the Macedonia's had been dropped, and then headed for
home. The wind had fallen to a whisper, the ocean was growing calmer
and calmer, and this, coupled with the presence of the great herd, made a
perfect hunting day - one of the two or three days to be encountered in the
whole of a lucky season. An angry lot of men, boat-pullers and steerers
as well as hunters, swarmed over our side. Each man felt that he had
been robbed; and the boats were hoisted in amid curses, which, if curses had
power, would have settled Death Larsen for all eternity - "Dead and
damned for a dozen iv eternities," commented Louis, his eyes twinkling
up at me as he rested from hauling taut the lashings of his boat.
"Listen to them, and find if it is hard to discover the most vital thing
in their souls," said Wolf Larsen. "Faith? and love? and high
ideals? The good? the beautiful? the true?"
"Their innate sense of right has been violated," Maud Brewster said,
joining the conversation.
She was standing a dozen feet away, one hand resting on the
main- shrouds and her body swaying gently to the slight roll of the
ship. She had not raised her voice, and yet I was struck by its clear
and bell-like tone. Ah, it was sweet in my ears! I scarcely
dared look at her just then, for the fear of betraying myself. A
boy's cap was perched on her head, and her hair, light brown and
arranged in a loose and fluffy order that caught the sun, seemed an
aureole about the delicate oval of her face. She was
positively bewitching, and, withal, sweetly spirituelle, if not
saintly. All my old-time marvel at life returned to me at sight of this
splendid incarnation of it, and Wolf Larsen's cold explanation of life
and its meaning was truly ridiculous and laughable.
"A sentimentalist," he sneered, "like Mr. Van Weyden. Those
men are cursing because their desires have been outraged. That is
all. What desires? The desires for the good grub and soft beds
ashore which a handsome pay-day brings them - the women and the drink,
the gorging and the beastliness which so truly expresses them, the
best that is in them, their highest aspirations, their ideals, if
you please. The exhibition they make of their feelings is not
a touching sight, yet it shows how deeply they have been touched,
how deeply their purses have been touched, for to lay hands on
their purses is to lay hands on their souls."
"'You hardly behave as if your purse had been touched," she
"Then it so happens that I am behaving differently, for my purse and my
soul have both been touched. At the current price of skins in the
London market, and based on a fair estimate of what the afternoon's catch
would have been had not the Macedonia hogged it, the Ghost has lost about
fifteen hundred dollars' worth of skins."
"You speak so calmly - " she began.
"But I do not feel calm; I could kill the man who robbed me,"
he interrupted. "Yes, yes, I know, and that man my brother -
more sentiment! Bah!"
His face underwent a sudden change. His voice was less harsh
and wholly sincere as he said:
"You must be happy, you sentimentalists, really and truly happy
at dreaming and finding things good, and, because you find some of them
good, feeling good yourself. Now, tell me, you two, do you find me
"You are good to look upon - in a way," I qualified.
"There are in you all powers for good," was Maud Brewster's answer.
"There you are!" he cried at her, half angrily. "Your words
are empty to me. There is nothing clear and sharp and definite
about the thought you have expressed. You cannot pick it up in your
two hands and look at it. In point of fact, it is not a thought.
It is a feeling, a sentiment, a something based upon illusion and not a
product of the intellect at all."
As he went on his voice again grew soft, and a confiding note came into
it. "Do you know, I sometimes catch myself wishing that I, too, were
blind to the facts of life and only knew its fancies and illusions.
They're wrong, all wrong, of course, and contrary to reason; but in the face
of them my reason tells me, wrong and most wrong, that to dream and live
illusions gives greater delight. And after all, delight is the wage for
living. Without delight, living is a worthless act. To labour at
living and be unpaid is worse than to be dead. He who delights the most
lives the most, and your dreams and unrealities are less disturbing to you
and more gratifying than are my facts to me."
He shook his head slowly, pondering.
"I often doubt, I often doubt, the worthwhileness of reason. Dreams must
be more substantial and satisfying. Emotional delight is more filling
and lasting than intellectual delight; and, besides, you pay for your moments
of intellectual delight by having the blues. Emotional delight is
followed by no more than jaded senses which speedily recuperate. I envy
you, I envy you."
He stopped abruptly, and then on his lips formed one of his
strange quizzical smiles, as he added:
"It's from my brain I envy you, take notice, and not from my heart. My
reason dictates it. The envy is an intellectual product. I
am like a sober man looking upon drunken men, and, greatly weary, wishing
he, too, were drunk."
"Or like a wise man looking upon fools and wishing he, too, were
a fool," I laughed.
"Quite so," he said. "You are a blessed, bankrupt pair of
fools. You have no facts in your pocketbook."
"Yet we spend as freely as you," was Maud Brewster's contribution.
"More freely, because it costs you nothing."
"And because we draw upon eternity," she retorted.
"Whether you do or think you do, it's the same thing. You
spend what you haven't got, and in return you get greater value
from spending what you haven't got than I get from spending what I
have got, and what I have sweated to get."
"Why don't you change the basis of your coinage, then?" she
He looked at her quickly, half-hopefully, and then said,
all regretfully: "Too late. I'd like to, perhaps, but I
can't. My pocketbook is stuffed with the old coinage, and it's a
stubborn thing. I can never bring myself to recognize anything else
He ceased speaking, and his gaze wandered absently past her and became
lost in the placid sea. The old primal melancholy was strong upon
him. He was quivering to it. He had reasoned himself into a spell
of the blues, and within few hours one could look for the devil within him to
be up and stirring. I remembered Charley Furuseth, and knew this man's
sadness as the penalty which the materialist ever pays for his
"You've been on deck, Mr. Van Weyden," Wolf Larsen said, the following
morning at the breakfast-table, "How do things look?"
"Clear enough," I answered, glancing at the sunshine which streamed down
the open companion-way. "Fair westerly breeze, with a promise of
stiffening, if Louis predicts correctly."
He nodded his head in a pleased way. "Any signs of fog?"
"Thick banks in the north and north-west."
He nodded his head again, evincing even greater satisfaction
"What of the Macedonia?"
"Not sighted," I answered.
I could have sworn his face fell at the intelligence, but why he should
be disappointed I could not conceive.
I was soon to learn. "Smoke ho!" came the hail from on deck,
and his face brightened.
"Good!" he exclaimed, and left the table at once to go on deck and into
the steerage, where the hunters were taking the first breakfast of their
Maud Brewster and I scarcely touched the food before us,
gazing, instead, in silent anxiety at each other, and listening to
Wolf Larsen's voice, which easily penetrated the cabin through
the intervening bulkhead. He spoke at length, and his conclusion
was greeted with a wild roar of cheers. The bulkhead was too thick
for us to hear what he said; but whatever it was it affected the hunters
strongly, for the cheering was followed by loud exclamations and shouts of
From the sounds on deck I knew that the sailors had been routed out and
were preparing to lower the boats. Maud Brewster accompanied me on
deck, but I left her at the break of the poop, where she might watch the
scene and not be in it. The sailors must have learned whatever project
was on hand, and the vim and snap they put into their work attested their
enthusiasm. The hunters came trooping on deck with shot-guns and
ammunition-boxes, and, most unusual, their rifles. The latter were
rarely taken in the boats, for a seal shot at long range with a rifle
invariably sank before a boat could reach it. But each hunter this day
had his rifle and a large supply of cartridges. I noticed they grinned
with satisfaction whenever they looked at the Macedonia's smoke, which was
rising higher and higher as she approached from the west.
The five boats went over the side with a rush, spread out like the ribs
of a fan, and set a northerly course, as on the preceding afternoon, for us
to follow. I watched for some time, curiously, but there seemed nothing
extraordinary about their behaviour. They lowered sails, shot seals,
and hoisted sails again, and continued on their way as I had always seen them
do. The Macedonia repeated her performance of yesterday, "hogging" the
sea by dropping her line of boats in advance of ours and across our
course. Fourteen boats require a considerable spread of ocean for
comfortable hunting, and when she had completely lapped our line she
continued steaming into the north-east, dropping more boats as she
"What's up?" I asked Wolf Larsen, unable longer to keep my curiosity in
"Never mind what's up," he answered gruffly. "You won't be
a thousand years in finding out, and in the meantime just pray for plenty
"Oh, well, I don't mind telling you," he said the next moment. "I'm
going to give that brother of mine a taste of his own medicine. In
short, I'm going to play the hog myself, and not for one day, but for the
rest of the season, - if we're in luck."
"And if we're not?" I queried.
"Not to be considered," he laughed. "We simply must be in luck,
or it's all up with us."
He had the wheel at the time, and I went forward to my hospital in the
forecastle, where lay the two crippled men, Nilson and Thomas Mugridge.
Nilson was as cheerful as could be expected, for his broken leg was knitting
nicely; but the Cockney was desperately melancholy, and I was aware of a
great sympathy for the unfortunate creature. And the marvel of it was
that still he lived and clung to life. The brutal years had reduced his
meagre body to splintered wreckage, and yet the spark of life within
burned brightly as ever.
"With an artificial foot - and they make excellent ones - you will be
stumping ships' galleys to the end of time," I assured him jovially.
But his answer was serious, nay, solemn. "I don't know about
wot you s'y, Mr. Van W'yden, but I do know I'll never rest 'appy till
I see that 'ell-'ound bloody well dead. 'E cawn't live as long
as me. 'E's got no right to live, an' as the Good Word puts it,
''E shall shorely die,' an' I s'y, 'Amen, an' damn soon at that.'"
When I returned on deck I found Wolf Larsen steering mainly with one
hand, while with the other hand he held the marine glasses and studied the
situation of the boats, paying particular attention to the position of the
Macedonia. The only change noticeable in our boats was that they had
hauled close on the wind and were heading several points west of north.
Still, I could not see the expediency of the manoeuvre, for the free sea was
still intercepted by the Macedonia's five weather boats, which, in turn, had
hauled close on the wind. Thus they slowly diverged toward the
west, drawing farther away from the remainder of the boats in their
line. Our boats were rowing as well as sailing. Even the hunters
were pulling, and with three pairs of oars in the water they
rapidly overhauled what I may appropriately term the enemy.
The smoke of the Macedonia had dwindled to a dim blot on the
north- eastern horizon. Of the steamer herself nothing was to be
seen. We had been loafing along, till now, our sails shaking half the time
and spilling the wind; and twice, for short periods, we had been hove
to. But there was no more loafing. Sheets were trimmed, and Wolf
Larsen proceeded to put the Ghost through her paces. We ran past our
line of boats and bore down upon the first weather boat of the other
"Down that flying jib, Mr. Van Weyden," Wolf Larsen commanded. "And
stand by to back over the jibs."
I ran forward and had the downhaul of the flying jib all in and fast as
we slipped by the boat a hundred feet to leeward. The three men in it
gazed at us suspiciously. They had been hogging the sea, and they knew
Wolf Larsen, by reputation at any rate. I noted that the hunter, a huge
Scandinavian sitting in the bow, held his rifle, ready to hand, across his
knees. It should have been in its proper place in the rack. When
they came opposite our stern, Wolf Larsen greeted them with a wave of the
hand, and cried:
"Come on board and have a 'gam'!"
"To gam," among the sealing-schooners, is a substitute for the verbs "to
visit," "to gossip." It expresses the garrulity of the sea, and is a
pleasant break in the monotony of the life.
The Ghost swung around into the wind, and I finished my work forward in
time to run aft and lend a hand with the mainsheet.
"You will please stay on deck, Miss Brewster," Wolf Larsen said, as he
started forward to meet his guest. "And you too, Mr. Van Weyden."
The boat had lowered its sail and run alongside. The
hunter, golden bearded like a sea-king, came over the rail and dropped
on deck. But his hugeness could not quite overcome
his apprehensiveness. Doubt and distrust showed strongly in his
face. It was a transparent face, for all of its hairy shield,
and advertised instant relief when he glanced from Wolf Larsen to
me, noted that there was only the pair of us, and then glanced over
his own two men who had joined him. Surely he had little reason to
be afraid. He towered like a Goliath above Wolf Larsen. He must
have measured six feet eight or nine inches in stature, and I subsequently
learned his weight - 240 pounds. And there was no fat about him.
It was all bone and muscle.
A return of apprehension was apparent when, at the top of
the companion-way, Wolf Larsen invited him below. But he
reassured himself with a glance down at his host - a big man himself
but dwarfed by the propinquity of the giant. So all
hesitancy vanished, and the pair descended into the cabin. In the
meantime, his two men, as was the wont of visiting sailors, had gone
forward into the forecastle to do some visiting themselves.
Suddenly, from the cabin came a great, choking bellow, followed by all
the sounds of a furious struggle. It was the leopard and the lion, and
the lion made all the noise. Wolf Larsen was the leopard.
"You see the sacredness of our hospitality," I said bitterly to Maud
She nodded her head that she heard, and I noted in her face the signs of
the same sickness at sight or sound of violent struggle from which I had
suffered so severely during my first weeks on the Ghost.
"Wouldn't it be better if you went forward, say by the
steerage companion-way, until it is over?" I suggested.
She shook her head and gazed at me pitifully. She was
not frightened, but appalled, rather, at the human animality of it.
"You will understand," I took advantage of the opportunity to
say, "whatever part I take in what is going on and what is to come, that I
am compelled to take it - if you and I are ever to get out of this scrape
with our lives."
"It is not nice - for me," I added.
"I understand," she said, in a weak, far-away voice, and her eyes showed
me that she did understand.
The sounds from below soon died away. Then Wolf Larsen came
alone on deck. There was a slight flush under his bronze, but
otherwise he bore no signs of the battle.
"Send those two men aft, Mr. Van Weyden," he said.
I obeyed, and a minute or two later they stood before him.
"Hoist in your boat," he said to them. "Your hunter's decided to
stay aboard awhile and doesn't want it pounding alongside."
"Hoist in your boat, I said," he repeated, this time in sharper tones as
they hesitated to do his bidding.
"Who knows? you may have to sail with me for a time," he said, quite
softly, with a silken threat that belied the softness, as they moved slowly
to comply, "and we might as well start with a friendly understanding.
Lively now! Death Larsen makes you jump better than that, and you know
Their movements perceptibly quickened under his coaching, and as the
boat swung inboard I was sent forward to let go the jibs. Wolf Larsen,
at the wheel, directed the Ghost after the Macedonia's second weather
Under way, and with nothing for the time being to do, I turned
my attention to the situation of the boats. The Macedonia's
third weather boat was being attacked by two of ours, the fourth by
our remaining three; and the fifth, turn about, was taking a hand in the
defence of its nearest mate. The fight had opened at long distance, and
the rifles were cracking steadily. A quick, snappy sea was being kicked
up by the wind, a condition which prevented fine shooting; and now and again,
as we drew closer, we could see the bullets zip-zipping from wave to
The boat we were pursuing had squared away and was running before the
wind to escape us, and, in the course of its flight, to take part in
repulsing our general boat attack.
Attending to sheets and tacks now left me little time to see what was
taking place, but I happened to be on the poop when Wolf Larsen ordered the
two strange sailors forward and into the forecastle. They went sullenly, but
they went. He next ordered Miss Brewster below, and smiled at the
instant horror that leapt into her eyes.
"You'll find nothing gruesome down there," he said, "only an unhurt man
securely made fast to the ring-bolts. Bullets are liable to come
aboard, and I don't want you killed, you know."
Even as he spoke, a bullet was deflected by a brass-capped spoke of the
wheel between his hands and screeched off through the air to windward.
"You see," he said to her; and then to me, "Mr. Van Weyden, will you
take the wheel?"
Maud Brewster had stepped inside the companion-way so that only her head
was exposed. Wolf Larsen had procured a rifle and was throwing a
cartridge into the barrel. I begged her with my eyes to go below, but
she smiled and said:
"We may be feeble land-creatures without legs, but we can show Captain
Larsen that we are at least as brave as he."
He gave her a quick look of admiration.
"I like you a hundred per cent. better for that," he said.
"Books, and brains, and bravery. You are well-rounded, a blue-stocking
fit to be the wife of a pirate chief. Ahem, we'll discuss that
later," he smiled, as a bullet struck solidly into the cabin wall.
I saw his eyes flash golden as he spoke, and I saw the terror mount in
"We are braver," I hastened to say. "At least, speaking
for myself, I know I am braver than Captain Larsen."
It was I who was now favoured by a quick look. He was wondering
if I were making fun of him. I put three or four spokes over
to counteract a sheer toward the wind on the part of the Ghost, and then
steadied her. Wolf Larsen was still waiting an explanation, and I
pointed down to my knees.
"You will observe there," I said, "a slight trembling. It
is because I am afraid, the flesh is afraid; and I am afraid in my mind
because I do not wish to die. But my spirit masters the trembling flesh
and the qualms of the mind. I am more than brave. I am
courageous. Your flesh is not afraid. You are not afraid. On the
one hand, it costs you nothing to encounter danger; on the other hand, it
even gives you delight. You enjoy it. You may be unafraid, Mr.
Larsen, but you must grant that the bravery is mine."
"You're right," he acknowledged at once. "I never thought of it
in that way before. But is the opposite true? If you are braver
than I, am I more cowardly than you?"
We both laughed at the absurdity, and he dropped down to the deck and
rested his rifle across the rail. The bullets we had received had
travelled nearly a mile, but by now we had cut that distance in half.
He fired three careful shots. The first struck fifty feet to windward
of the boat, the second alongside; and at the third the boat-steerer let
loose his steering-oar and crumpled up in the bottom of the boat.
"I guess that'll fix them," Wolf Larsen said, rising to his feet. "I
couldn't afford to let the hunter have it, and there is a chance the
boat-puller doesn't know how to steer. In which case, the hunter cannot
steer and shoot at the same time"
His reasoning was justified, for the boat rushed at once into the wind
and the hunter sprang aft to take the boat-steerer's place. There was no more
shooting, though the rifles were still cracking merrily from the other
The hunter had managed to get the boat before the wind again, but we ran
down upon it, going at least two feet to its one. A hundred yards away,
I saw the boat-puller pass a rifle to the hunter. Wolf Larsen went
amidships and took the coil of the throat-halyards from its pin. Then
he peered over the rail with levelled rifle. Twice I saw the hunter let
go the steering-oar with one hand, reach for his rifle, and hesitate.
We were now alongside and foaming past.
"Here, you!" Wolf Larsen cried suddenly to the boat-puller.
"Take a turn!"
At the same time he flung the coil of rope. It struck
fairly, nearly knocking the man over, but he did not obey. Instead,
he looked to his hunter for orders. The hunter, in turn, was in
a quandary. His rifle was between his knees, but if he let go
the steering-oar in order to shoot, the boat would sweep around
and collide with the schooner. Also he saw Wolf Larsen's rifle
bearing upon him and knew he would be shot ere he could get his rifle
"Take a turn," he said quietly to the man.
The boat-puller obeyed, taking a turn around the little forward thwart
and paying the line as it jerked taut. The boat sheered out with a
rush, and the hunter steadied it to a parallel course some twenty feet from
the side of the Ghost.
"Now, get that sail down and come alongside!" Wolf Larsen ordered.
He never let go his rifle, even passing down the tackles with
one hand. When they were fast, bow and stern, and the two
uninjured men prepared to come aboard, the hunter picked up his rifle as
if to place it in a secure position.
"Drop it!" Wolf Larsen cried, and the hunter dropped it as though it
were hot and had burned him.
Once aboard, the two prisoners hoisted in the boat and under
Wolf Larsen's direction carried the wounded boat-steerer down into
"If our five boats do as well as you and I have done, we'll have
a pretty full crew," Wolf Larsen said to me.
"The man you shot - he is - I hope?" Maud Brewster quavered.
"In the shoulder," he answered. "Nothing serious, Mr. Van
Weyden will pull him around as good as ever in three or four weeks."
"But he won't pull those chaps around, from the look of it," he added,
pointing at the Macedonia's third boat, for which I had been steering and
which was now nearly abreast of us. "That's Horner's and Smoke's
work. I told them we wanted live men, not carcasses. But the joy of
shooting to hit is a most compelling thing, when once you've learned how to
shoot. Ever experienced it, Mr. Van Weyden?"
I shook my head and regarded their work. It had indeed
been bloody, for they had drawn off and joined our other three boats
in the attack on the remaining two of the enemy. The deserted
boat was in the trough of the sea, rolling drunkenly across each
comber, its loose spritsail out at right angles to it and fluttering
and flapping in the wind. The hunter and boat-puller were both
lying awkwardly in the bottom, but the boat-steerer lay across
the gunwale, half in and half out, his arms trailing in the water and his
head rolling from side to side.
"Don't look, Miss Brewster, please don't look," I had begged of her, and
I was glad that she had minded me and been spared the sight.
"Head right into the bunch, Mr. Van Weyden," was Wolf
As we drew nearer, the firing ceased, and we saw that the fight
was over. The remaining two boats had been captured by our five,
and the seven were grouped together, waiting to be picked up.
"Look at that!" I cried involuntarily, pointing to the north-east.
The blot of smoke which indicated the Macedonia's position
"Yes, I've been watching it," was Wolf Larsen's calm reply.
He measured the distance away to the fog-bank, and for an instant paused
to feel the weight of the wind on his cheek. "We'll make it, I think;
but you can depend upon it that blessed brother of mine has twigged our
little game and is just a-humping for us. Ah, look at that!"
The blot of smoke had suddenly grown larger, and it was very black.
"I'll beat you out, though, brother mine," he chuckled. "I'll
beat you out, and I hope you no worse than that you rack your old engines
When we hove to, a hasty though orderly confusion reigned.
The boats came aboard from every side at once. As fast as
the prisoners came over the rail they were marshalled forward to
the forecastle by our hunters, while our sailors hoisted in the
boats, pell-mell, dropping them anywhere upon the deck and not stopping
to lash them. We were already under way, all sails set and
drawing, and the sheets being slacked off for a wind abeam, as the last
boat lifted clear of the water and swung in the tackles.
There was need for haste. The Macedonia, belching the blackest
of smoke from her funnel, was charging down upon us from out of
the north-east. Neglecting the boats that remained to her, she
had altered her course so as to anticipate ours. She was not
running straight for us, but ahead of us. Our courses were converging
like the sides of an angle, the vertex of which was at the edge of
the fog-bank. It was there, or not at all, that the Macedonia
could hope to catch us. The hope for the Ghost lay in that she
should pass that point before the Macedonia arrived at it.
Wolf Larsen was steering, his eyes glistening and snapping as they dwelt
upon and leaped from detail to detail of the chase. Now he studied the
sea to windward for signs of the wind slackening or freshening, now the
Macedonia; and again, his eyes roved over every sail, and he gave commands to
slack a sheet here a trifle, to come in on one there a trifle, till he was
drawing out of the Ghost the last bit of speed she possessed. All feuds
and grudges were forgotten, and I was surprised at the alacrity with which
the men who had so long endured his brutality sprang to execute his
orders. Strange to say, the unfortunate Johnson came into my mind as
we lifted and surged and heeled along, and I was aware of a regret that he
was not alive and present; he had so loved the Ghost and delighted in her
"Better get your rifles, you fellows," Wolf Larsen called to
our hunters; and the five men lined the lee rail, guns in hand,
The Macedonia was now but a mile away, the black smoke pouring from her
funnel at a right angle, so madly she raced, pounding through the sea at a
seventeen-knot gait - "'Sky-hooting through the brine," as Wolf Larsen quoted
while gazing at her. We were not making more than nine knots, but the
fog-bank was very near.
A puff of smoke broke from the Macedonia's deck, we heard a
heavy report, and a round hole took form in the stretched canvas of
our mainsail. They were shooting at us with one of the small
cannon which rumour had said they carried on board. Our men,
clustering amidships, waved their hats and raised a derisive cheer.
Again there was a puff of smoke and a loud report, this time the
cannon- ball striking not more than twenty feet astern and glancing
twice from sea to sea to windward ere it sank.
But there was no rifle-firing for the reason that all their hunters were
out in the boats or our prisoners. When the two vessels
were half-a-mile apart, a third shot made another hole in our
mainsail. Then we entered the fog. It was about us, veiling and hiding
us in its dense wet gauze.
The sudden transition was startling. The moment before we had
been leaping through the sunshine, the clear sky above us, the
sea breaking and rolling wide to the horizon, and a ship, vomiting smoke
and fire and iron missiles, rushing madly upon us. And at once, as in
an instant's leap, the sun was blotted out, there was no sky, even our
mastheads were lost to view, and our horizon was such as tear-blinded eyes
may see. The grey mist drove by us like a rain. Every woollen
filament of our garments, every hair of our heads and faces, was jewelled
with a crystal globule. The shrouds were wet with moisture; it dripped
from our rigging overhead; and on the underside of our booms drops of water
took shape in long swaying lines, which were detached and flung to the deck
in mimic showers at each surge of the schooner. I was aware of a
pent, stifled feeling. As the sounds of the ship thrusting
herself through the waves were hurled back upon us by the fog, so
were one's thoughts. The mind recoiled from contemplation of a
world beyond this wet veil which wrapped us around. This was the
world, the universe itself, its bounds so near one felt impelled to
reach out both arms and push them back. It was impossible, that the
rest could be beyond these walls of grey. The rest was a dream, no
more than the memory of a dream.
It was weird, strangely weird. I looked at Maud Brewster and
knew that she was similarly affected. Then I looked at Wolf Larsen,
but there was nothing subjective about his state of consciousness.
His whole concern was with the immediate, objective present. He
still held the wheel, and I felt that he was timing Time, reckoning
the passage of the minutes with each forward lunge and leeward roll of the
"Go for'ard and hard alee without any noise," he said to me in a low
voice. "Clew up the topsails first. Set men at all
the sheets. Let there be no rattling of blocks, no sound of
voices. No noise, understand, no noise."
When all was ready, the word "hard-a-lee" was passed forward to me from
man to man; and the Ghost heeled about on the port tack with practically no
noise at all. And what little there was, - the slapping of a few
reef-points and the creaking of a sheave in a block or two, - was ghostly
under the hollow echoing pall in which we were swathed.
We had scarcely filled away, it seemed, when the fog thinned abruptly
and we were again in the sunshine, the wide-stretching sea breaking before us
to the sky-line. But the ocean was bare. No wrathful Macedonia
broke its surface nor blackened the sky with her smoke.
Wolf Larsen at once squared away and ran down along the rim of
the fog-bank. His trick was obvious. He had entered the fog
to windward of the steamer, and while the steamer had blindly driven on
into the fog in the chance of catching him, he had come about and out of his
shelter and was now running down to re-enter to leeward. Successful in
this, the old simile of the needle in the haystack would be mild indeed
compared with his brother's chance of finding him. He did not run
long. Jibing the fore- and main-sails and setting the topsails again,
we headed back into the bank. As we entered I could have sworn I saw a
vague bulk emerging to windward. I looked quickly at Wolf Larsen.
Already we were ourselves buried in the fog, but he nodded his head.
He, too, had seen it - the Macedonia, guessing his manoeuvre and failing by
a moment in anticipating it. There was no doubt that we had
"He can't keep this up," Wolf Larsen said. "He'll have to go
back for the rest of his boats. Send a man to the wheel, Mr.
Van Weyden, keep this course for the present, and you might as well
set the watches, for we won't do any lingering to-night."
"I'd give five hundred dollars, though," he added, "just to be aboard
the Macedonia for five minutes, listening to my brother curse."
"And now, Mr. Van Weyden," he said to me when he had been relieved from
the wheel, "we must make these new-comers welcome. Serve out plenty of
whisky to the hunters and see that a few bottles slip for'ard. I'll
wager every man Jack of them is over the side to- morrow, hunting for Wolf
Larsen as contentedly as ever they hunted for Death Larsen."
"But won't they escape as Wainwright did?" I asked.
He laughed shrewdly. "Not as long as our old hunters have
anything to say about it. I'm dividing amongst them a dollar a skin for
all the skins shot by our new hunters. At least half of
their enthusiasm to-day was due to that. Oh, no, there won't be
any escaping if they have anything to say about it. And now
you'd better get for'ard to your hospital duties. There must be a
full ward waiting for you."
Wolf Larsen took the distribution of the whisky off my hands, and the
bottles began to make their appearance while I worked over the fresh batch of
wounded men in the forecastle. I had seen whisky drunk, such as
whisky-and-soda by the men of the clubs, but never as these men drank it,
from pannikins and mugs, and from the bottles - great brimming drinks, each
one of which was in itself a debauch. But they did not stop at one or
two. They drank and drank, and ever the bottles slipped forward and
they drank more.
Everybody drank; the wounded drank; Oofty-Oofty, who helped
me, drank. Only Louis refrained, no more than cautiously wetting
his lips with the liquor, though he joined in the revels with an abandon
equal to that of most of them. It was a saturnalia. In loud
voices they shouted over the day's fighting, wrangled about details, or waxed
affectionate and made friends with the men whom they had fought.
Prisoners and captors hiccoughed on one another's shoulders, and swore mighty
oaths of respect and esteem. They wept over the miseries of the past
and over the miseries yet to come under the iron rule of Wolf Larsen.
And all cursed him and told terrible tales of his brutality.
It was a strange and frightful spectacle - the small, bunk-lined space,
the floor and walls leaping and lurching, the dim light, the swaying shadows
lengthening and fore-shortening monstrously, the thick air heavy with smoke
and the smell of bodies and iodoform, and the inflamed faces of the men -
half-men, I should call them. I noted Oofty-Oofty, holding the end of a
bandage and looking upon the scene, his velvety and luminous eyes glistening
in the light like a deer's eyes, and yet I knew the barbaric devil that
lurked in his breast and belied all the softness and tenderness,
almost womanly, of his face and form. And I noticed the boyish face
of Harrison, - a good face once, but now a demon's, - convulsed
with passion as he told the newcomers of the hell-ship they were in
and shrieked curses upon the head of Wolf Larsen.
Wolf Larsen it was, always Wolf Larsen, enslaver and tormentor of men, a
male Circe and these his swine, suffering brutes that grovelled before him
and revolted only in drunkenness and in secrecy. And was I, too, one of
his swine? I thought. And Maud Brewster? No! I ground my
teeth in my anger and determination till the man I was attending winced under
my hand and Oofty-Oofty looked at me with curiosity. I felt endowed
with a sudden strength. What of my new-found love, I was a giant.
I feared nothing. I would work my will through it all, in spite of
Wolf Larsen and of my own thirty-five bookish years. All would be
well. I would make it well. And so, exalted, upborne by a sense
of power, I turned my back on the howling inferno and climbed to the deck,
where the fog drifted ghostly through the night and the air was sweet and
pure and quiet.
The steerage, where were two wounded hunters, was a repetition of the
forecastle, except that Wolf Larsen was not being cursed; and it was with a
great relief that I again emerged on deck and went aft to the cabin.
Supper was ready, and Wolf Larsen and Maud were waiting for me.
While all his ship was getting drunk as fast as it could, he remained
sober. Not a drop of liquor passed his lips. He did not dare it
under the circumstances, for he had only Louis and me to depend upon, and
Louis was even now at the wheel. We were sailing on through the fog
without a look-out and without lights. That Wolf Larsen had turned the
liquor loose among his men surprised me, but he evidently knew their
psychology and the best method of cementing in cordiality, what had begun in
His victory over Death Larsen seemed to have had a remarkable effect
upon him. The previous evening he had reasoned himself into the blues,
and I had been waiting momentarily for one of his characteristic
outbursts. Yet nothing had occurred, and he was now in splendid
trim. Possibly his success in capturing so many hunters and boats had
counteracted the customary reaction. At any rate, the blues were gone,
and the blue devils had not put in an appearance. So I thought at the
time; but, ah me, little I knew him or knew that even then, perhaps, he was
meditating an outbreak more terrible than any I had seen.
As I say, he discovered himself in splendid trim when I entered
the cabin. He had had no headaches for weeks, his eyes were clear
blue as the sky, his bronze was beautiful with perfect health;
life swelled through his veins in full and magnificent flood.
While waiting for me he had engaged Maud in animated
discussion. Temptation was the topic they had hit upon, and from the few
words I heard I made out that he was contending that temptation
was temptation only when a man was seduced by it and fell.
"For look you," he was saying, "as I see it, a man does things because
of desire. He has many desires. He may desire to escape pain, or
to enjoy pleasure. But whatever he does, he does because he desires to
"But suppose he desires to do two opposite things, neither of which will
permit him to do the other?" Maud interrupted.
"The very thing I was coming to," he said.
"And between these two desires is just where the soul of the man
is manifest," she went on. "If it is a good soul, it will desire
and do the good action, and the contrary if it is a bad soul. It
is the soul that decides."
"Bosh and nonsense!" he exclaimed impatiently. "It is the
desire that decides. Here is a man who wants to, say, get drunk.
Also, he doesn't want to get drunk. What does he do? How does he
do it? He is a puppet. He is the creature of his desires, and of the
two desires he obeys the strongest one, that is all. His soul
hasn't anything to do with it. How can he be tempted to get drunk
and refuse to get drunk? If the desire to remain sober prevails, it
is because it is the strongest desire. Temptation plays no
part, unless - " he paused while grasping the new thought which had
come into his mind - "unless he is tempted to remain sober.
"Ha! ha!" he laughed. "What do you think of that, Mr. Van
"That both of you are hair-splitting," I said. "The man's soul
is his desires. Or, if you will, the sum of his desires is his
soul. Therein you are both wrong. You lay the stress upon the
desire apart from the soul, Miss Brewster lays the stress on the
soul apart from the desire, and in point of fact soul and desire are
the same thing.
"However," I continued, "Miss Brewster is right in contending
that temptation is temptation whether the man yield or overcome.
Fire is fanned by the wind until it leaps up fiercely. So is
desire like fire. It is fanned, as by a wind, by sight of the
thing desired, or by a new and luring description or comprehension of
the thing desired. There lies the temptation. It is the wind
that fans the desire until it leaps up to mastery. That's
temptation. It may not fan sufficiently to make the desire overmastering,
but in so far as it fans at all, that far is it temptation. And,
as you say, it may tempt for good as well as for evil."
I felt proud of myself as we sat down to the table. My words
had been decisive. At least they had put an end to the
But Wolf Larsen seemed voluble, prone to speech as I had never seen him
before. It was as though he were bursting with pent energy which must
find an outlet somehow. Almost immediately he launched into a
discussion on love. As usual, his was the sheer materialistic side, and
Maud's was the idealistic. For myself, beyond a word or so of
suggestion or correction now and again, I took no part.
He was brilliant, but so was Maud, and for some time I lost the thread
of the conversation through studying her face as she talked. It was a face
that rarely displayed colour, but to-night it was flushed and
vivacious. Her wit was playing keenly, and she was enjoying the tilt as
much as Wolf Larsen, and he was enjoying it hugely. For some reason,
though I know not why in the argument, so utterly had I lost it in the
contemplation of one stray brown lock of Maud's hair, he quoted from Iseult
at Tintagel, where she says:
"Blessed am I beyond women even herein, That beyond all born women
is my sin, And perfect my transgression."
As he had read pessimism into Omar, so now he read triumph, stinging
triumph and exultation, into Swinburne's lines. And he read rightly,
and he read well. He had hardly ceased reading when Louis put his head
into the companion-way and whispered down:
"Be easy, will ye? The fog's lifted, an' 'tis the port light iv
a steamer that's crossin' our bow this blessed minute."
Wolf Larsen sprang on deck, and so swiftly that by the time we followed
him he had pulled the steerage-slide over the drunken clamour and was on his
way forward to close the forecastle-scuttle. The fog, though it remained, had
lifted high, where it obscured the stars and made the night quite
black. Directly ahead of us I could see a bright red light and a white
light, and I could hear the pulsing of a steamer's engines. Beyond a
doubt it was the Macedonia.
Wolf Larsen had returned to the poop, and we stood in a silent group,
watching the lights rapidly cross our bow.
"Lucky for me he doesn't carry a searchlight," Wolf Larsen said.
"What if I should cry out loudly?" I queried in a whisper.
"It would be all up," he answered. "But have you thought upon
what would immediately happen?"
Before I had time to express any desire to know, he had me by the throat
with his gorilla grip, and by a faint quiver of the muscles - a hint, as it
were - he suggested to me the twist that would surely have broken my
neck. The next moment he had released me and we were gazing at the
"What if I should cry out?" Maud asked.
"I like you too well to hurt you," he said softly - nay, there was a
tenderness and a caress in his voice that made me wince.
"But don't do it, just the same, for I'd promptly break Mr. Van Weyden's
"Then she has my permission to cry out," I said defiantly.
"I hardly think you'll care to sacrifice the Dean of American Letters
the Second," he sneered.
We spoke no more, though we had become too used to one another for the
silence to be awkward; and when the red light and the white had disappeared
we returned to the cabin to finish the interrupted supper.
Again they fell to quoting, and Maud gave Dowson's
"Impenitentia Ultima." She rendered it beautifully, but I watched not
her, but Wolf Larsen. I was fascinated by the fascinated look he bent
upon Maud. He was quite out of himself, and I noticed the
unconscious movement of his lips as he shaped word for word as fast as
she uttered them. He interrupted her when she gave the lines:
"And her eyes should be my light while the sun went out behind
me, And the viols in her voice be the last sound in my ear."
"There are viols in your voice," he said bluntly, and his
eyes flashed their golden light.
I could have shouted with joy at her control. She finished
the concluding stanza without faltering and then slowly guided
the conversation into less perilous channels. And all the while I
sat in a half-daze, the drunken riot of the steerage breaking through the
bulkhead, the man I feared and the woman I loved talking on and on. The
table was not cleared. The man who had taken Mugridge's place had
evidently joined his comrades in the forecastle.
If ever Wolf Larsen attained the summit of living, he attained
it then. From time to time I forsook my own thoughts to follow
him, and I followed in amaze, mastered for the moment by his
remarkable intellect, under the spell of his passion, for he was preaching
the passion of revolt. It was inevitable that Milton's Lucifer
should be instanced, and the keenness with which Wolf Larsen analysed
and depicted the character was a revelation of his stifled genius.
It reminded me of Taine, yet I knew the man had never heard of
that brilliant though dangerous thinker.
"He led a lost cause, and he was not afraid of God's thunderbolts," Wolf
Larsen was saying. "Hurled into hell, he was unbeaten. A third of
God's angels he had led with him, and straightway he incited man to rebel
against God, and gained for himself and hell the major portion of all the
generations of man. Why was he beaten out of heaven? Because he
was less brave than God? less proud? less aspiring? No! A
thousand times no! God was more powerful, as he said, Whom thunder hath
made greater. But Lucifer was a free spirit. To serve was to
suffocate. He preferred suffering in freedom to all the happiness of a
comfortable servility. He did not care to serve God. He cared to
serve nothing. He was no figure-head. He stood on his own
legs. He was an individual."
"The first Anarchist," Maud laughed, rising and preparing to withdraw to
"Then it is good to be an anarchist!" he cried. He, too,
had risen, and he stood facing her, where she had paused at the door
of her room, as he went on:
"'Here at least We shall be free; the Almighty hath not
built Here for his envy; will not drive us hence; Here we may reign
secure; and in my choice To reign is worth ambition, though in
hell: Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven."
It was the defiant cry of a mighty spirit. The cabin still
rang with his voice, as he stood there, swaying, his bronzed face shining,
his head up and dominant, and his eyes, golden and masculine, intensely
masculine and insistently soft, flashing upon Maud at the door.
Again that unnamable and unmistakable terror was in her eyes, and she
said, almost in a whisper, "You are Lucifer."
The door closed and she was gone. He stood staring after her for
a minute, then returned to himself and to me.
"I'll relieve Louis at the wheel," he said shortly, "and call upon you
to relieve at midnight. Better turn in now and get some sleep."
He pulled on a pair of mittens, put on his cap, and ascended
the companion-stairs, while I followed his suggestion by going to bed. For
some unknown reason, prompted mysteriously, I did not undress, but lay down
fully clothed. For a time I listened to the clamour in the steerage and
marvelled upon the love which had come to me; but my sleep on the Ghost had
become most healthful and natural, and soon the songs and cries died away, my
eyes closed, and my consciousness sank down into the half-death of
I knew not what had aroused me, but I found myself out of my
bunk, on my feet, wide awake, my soul vibrating to the warning of
danger as it might have thrilled to a trumpet call. I threw open
the door. The cabin light was burning low. I saw Maud, my
Maud, straining and struggling and crushed in the embrace of Wolf Larsen's
arms. I could see the vain beat and flutter of her as she strove,
pressing her face against his breast, to escape from him. All this I saw on
the very instant of seeing and as I sprang forward.
I struck him with my fist, on the face, as he raised his head, but it
was a puny blow. He roared in a ferocious, animal-like way, and gave me
a shove with his hand. It was only a shove, a flirt of the wrist, yet
so tremendous was his strength that I was hurled backward as from a
catapult. I struck the door of the state-room which had formerly been
Mugridge's, splintering and smashing the panels with the impact of my
body. I struggled to my feet, with difficulty dragging myself clear of
the wrecked door, unaware of any hurt whatever. I was conscious only of
an overmastering rage. I think I, too, cried aloud, as I drew the knife at my
hip and sprang forward a second time.
But something had happened. They were reeling apart. I was
close upon him, my knife uplifted, but I withheld the blow. I
was puzzled by the strangeness of it. Maud was leaning against
the wall, one hand out for support; but he was staggering, his left hand
pressed against his forehead and covering his eyes, and with the right he was
groping about him in a dazed sort of way. It struck against the wall,
and his body seemed to express a muscular and physical relief at the contact,
as though he had found his bearings, his location in space as well as
something against which to lean.
Then I saw red again. All my wrongs and humiliations flashed
upon me with a dazzling brightness, all that I had suffered and others had
suffered at his hands, all the enormity of the man's very existence. I
sprang upon him, blindly, insanely, and drove the knife into his
shoulder. I knew, then, that it was no more than a flesh wound, - I had
felt the steel grate on his shoulder-blade, - and I raised the knife to
strike at a more vital part.
But Maud had seen my first blow, and she cried, "Don't!
I dropped my arm for a moment, and a moment only. Again the
knife was raised, and Wolf Larsen would have surely died had she
not stepped between. Her arms were around me, her hair was brushing
my face. My pulse rushed up in an unwonted manner, yet my
rage mounted with it. She looked me bravely in the eyes.
"For my sake," she begged.
"I would kill him for your sake!" I cried, trying to free my arm without
"Hush!" she said, and laid her fingers lightly on my lips. I
could have kissed them, had I dared, even then, in my rage, the touch
of them was so sweet, so very sweet. "Please, please," she
pleaded, and she disarmed me by the words, as I was to discover they
would ever disarm me.
I stepped back, separating from her, and replaced the knife in
its sheath. I looked at Wolf Larsen. He still pressed his left
hand against his forehead. It covered his eyes. His head was
bowed. He seemed to have grown limp. His body was sagging at the
hips, his great shoulders were drooping and shrinking forward.
"Van, Weyden!" he called hoarsely, and with a note of fright in
his voice. "Oh, Van Weyden! where are you?"
I looked at Maud. She did not speak, but nodded her head.
"Here I am," I answered, stepping to his side. "What is
"Help me to a seat," he said, in the same hoarse, frightened voice.
"I am a sick man; a very sick man, Hump," he said, as he left
my sustaining grip and sank into a chair.
His head dropped forward on the table and was buried in his hands. From
time to time it rocked back and forward as with pain. Once, when he
half raised it, I saw the sweat standing in heavy drops on his forehead about
the roots of his hair.
"I am a sick man, a very sick man," he repeated again, and yet
"What is the matter?" I asked, resting my hand on his shoulder. "What
can I do for you?"
But he shook my hand off with an irritated movement, and for a long time
I stood by his side in silence. Maud was looking on, her face awed and
frightened. What had happened to him we could not imagine.
"Hump," he said at last, "I must get into my bunk. Lend me a
hand. I'll be all right in a little while. It's those damn headaches,
I believe. I was afraid of them. I had a feeling - no, I don't
know what I'm talking about. Help me into my bunk."
But when I got him into his bunk he again buried his face in his hands,
covering his eyes, and as I turned to go I could hear him murmuring, "I am a
sick man, a very sick man."
Maud looked at me inquiringly as I emerged. I shook my
"Something has happened to him. What, I don't know. He
is helpless, and frightened, I imagine, for the first time in
his life. It must have occurred before he received the
knife-thrust, which made only a superficial wound. You must have seen
She shook her head. "I saw nothing. It is just as mysterious
to me. He suddenly released me and staggered away. But what shall
we do? What shall I do?"
"If you will wait, please, until I come back," I answered.
I went on deck. Louis was at the wheel.
"You may go for'ard and turn in," I said, taking it from him.
He was quick to obey, and I found myself alone on the deck of
the Ghost. As quietly as was possible, I clewed up the
topsails, lowered the flying jib and staysail, backed the jib over,
and flattened the mainsail. Then I went below to Maud. I placed
my finger on my lips for silence, and entered Wolf Larsen's room.
He was in the same position in which I had left him, and his head
was rocking - almost writhing - from side to side.
"Anything I can do for you?" I asked.
He made no reply at first, but on my repeating the question he answered,
"No, no; I'm all right. Leave me alone till morning."
But as I turned to go I noted that his head had resumed its
rocking motion. Maud was waiting patiently for me, and I took notice,
with a thrill of joy, of the queenly poise of her head and her
glorious, calm eyes. Calm and sure they were as her spirit
"Will you trust yourself to me for a journey of six hundred miles or
so?" I asked.
"You mean - ?" she asked, and I knew she had guessed aright.
"Yes, I mean just that," I replied. "There is nothing left for
us but the open boat."
"For me, you mean," she said. "You are certainly as safe here
as you have been."
"No, there is nothing left for us but the open boat," I
iterated stoutly. "Will you please dress as warmly as you can, at once,
and make into a bundle whatever you wish to bring with you."
"And make all haste," I added, as she turned toward her state-room.
The lazarette was directly beneath the cabin, and, opening the trap-door
in the floor and carrying a candle with me, I dropped down and began
overhauling the ship's stores. I selected mainly from the canned goods,
and by the time I was ready, willing hands were extended from above to
receive what I passed up.
We worked in silence. I helped myself also to blankets,
mittens, oilskins, caps, and such things, from the slop-chest. It was
no light adventure, this trusting ourselves in a small boat to so raw and
stormy a sea, and it was imperative that we should guard ourselves against
the cold and wet.
We worked feverishly at carrying our plunder on deck and depositing it
amidships, so feverishly that Maud, whose strength was hardly a positive
quantity, had to give over, exhausted, and sit on the steps at the break of
the poop. This did not serve to recover her, and she lay on her back,
on the hard deck, arms stretched out, and whole body relaxed. It was a
trick I remembered of my sister, and I knew she would soon be herself
again. I knew, also, that weapons would not come in amiss, and I
re-entered Wolf Larsen's state-room to get his rifle and shot-gun. I
spoke to him, but he made no answer, though his head was still rocking from
side to side and he was not asleep.
"Good-bye, Lucifer," I whispered to myself as I softly closed
Next to obtain was a stock of ammunition, - an easy matter, though I had
to enter the steerage companion-way to do it. Here the hunters stored
the ammunition-boxes they carried in the boats, and here, but a few feet from
their noisy revels, I took possession of two boxes.
Next, to lower a boat. Not so simple a task for one man.
Having cast off the lashings, I hoisted first on the forward tackle,
then on the aft, till the boat cleared the rail, when I lowered away, one
tackle and then the other, for a couple of feet, till it hung snugly, above
the water, against the schooner's side. I made certain that it
contained the proper equipment of oars, rowlocks, and sail. Water was a
consideration, and I robbed every boat aboard of its breaker. As there
were nine boats all told, it meant that we should have plenty of water, and
ballast as well, though there was the chance that the boat would be
overloaded, what of the generous supply of other things I was taking.
While Maud was passing me the provisions and I was storing them in the
boat, a sailor came on deck from the forecastle. He stood by the
weather rail for a time (we were lowering over the lee rail), and then
sauntered slowly amidships, where he again paused and stood facing the wind,
with his back toward us. I could hear my heart beating as I crouched
low in the boat. Maud had sunk down upon the deck and was, I knew,
lying motionless, her body in the shadow of the bulwark. But the man
never turned, and, after stretching his arms above his head and yawning
audibly, he retraced his steps to the forecastle scuttle and
A few minutes sufficed to finish the loading, and I lowered the boat
into the water. As I helped Maud over the rail and felt her form close
to mine, it was all I could do to keep from crying out, "I love you! I
love you!" Truly Humphrey Van Weyden was at last in love, I thought, as
her fingers clung to mine while I lowered her down to the boat. I held
on to the rail with one hand and supported her weight with the other, and I
was proud at the moment of the feat. It was a strength I had not
possessed a few months before, on the day I said good-bye to Charley Furuseth
and started for San Francisco on the ill-fated Martinez.
As the boat ascended on a sea, her feet touched and I released
her hands. I cast off the tackles and leaped after her. I had
never rowed in my life, but I put out the oars and at the expense of
much effort got the boat clear of the Ghost. Then I experimented
with the sail. I had seen the boat-steerers and hunters set
their spritsails many times, yet this was my first attempt. What
took them possibly two minutes took me twenty, but in the end I succeeded
in setting and trimming it, and with the steering-oar in my hands hauled on
"There lies Japan," I remarked, "straight before us."
"Humphrey Van Weyden," she said, "you are a brave man."
"Nay," I answered, "it is you who are a brave woman."
We turned our heads, swayed by a common impulse to see the last of the
Ghost. Her low hull lifted and rolled to windward on a sea; her canvas
loomed darkly in the night; her lashed wheel creaked as the rudder kicked;
then sight and sound of her faded away, and we were alone on the dark
Day broke, grey and chill. The boat was close-hauled on a
fresh breeze and the compass indicated that we were just making the course
which would bring us to Japan. Though stoutly mittened, my fingers were
cold, and they pained from the grip on the steering- oar. My feet were
stinging from the bite of the frost, and I hoped fervently that the sun would
Before me, in the bottom of the boat, lay Maud. She, at least,
was warm, for under her and over her were thick blankets. The top
one I had drawn over her face to shelter it from the night, so I could see
nothing but the vague shape of her, and her light-brown hair, escaped from
the covering and jewelled with moisture from the air.
Long I looked at her, dwelling upon that one visible bit of her as only
a man would who deemed it the most precious thing in the world. So
insistent was my gaze that at last she stirred under the blankets, the top
fold was thrown back and she smiled out on me, her eyes yet heavy with
"Good-morning, Mr. Van Weyden," she said. "Have you sighted
"No," I answered, "but we are approaching it at a rate of six miles an
She made a MOUE of disappointment.
"But that is equivalent to one hundred and forty-four miles
in twenty-four hours," I added reassuringly.
Her face brightened. "And how far have we to go?"
"Siberia lies off there," I said, pointing to the west. "But
to the south-west, some six hundred miles, is Japan. If this
wind should hold, we'll make it in five days."
"And if it storms? The boat could not live?"
She had a way of looking one in the eyes and demanding the truth, and
thus she looked at me as she asked the question.
"It would have to storm very hard," I temporized.
"And if it storms very hard?"
I nodded my head. "But we may be picked up any moment by
a sealing-schooner. They are plentifully distributed over this
part of the ocean."
"Why, you are chilled through!" she cried. "Look! You
are shivering. Don't deny it; you are. And here I have been
lying warm as toast."
"I don't see that it would help matters if you, too, sat up and were
chilled," I laughed.
"It will, though, when I learn to steer, which I certainly shall."
She sat up and began making her simple toilet. She shook down
her hair, and it fell about her in a brown cloud, hiding her face
and shoulders. Dear, damp brown hair! I wanted to kiss it, to
ripple it through my fingers, to bury my face in it. I gazed
entranced, till the boat ran into the wind and the flapping sail warned me
I was not attending to my duties. Idealist and romanticist that
I was and always had been in spite of my analytical nature, yet I
had failed till now in grasping much of the physical characteristics
of love. The love of man and woman, I had always held, was
a sublimated something related to spirit, a spiritual bond that linked and
drew their souls together. The bonds of the flesh had little part in my
cosmos of love. But I was learning the sweet lesson for myself that the
soul transmuted itself, expressed itself, through the flesh; that the sight
and sense and touch of the loved one's hair was as much breath and voice and
essence of the spirit as the light that shone from the eyes and the
thoughts that fell from the lips. After all, pure spirit was
unknowable, a thing to be sensed and divined only; nor could it express
itself in terms of itself. Jehovah was anthropomorphic because he
could address himself to the Jews only in terms of their understanding; so
he was conceived as in their own image, as a cloud, a pillar of fire, a
tangible, physical something which the mind of the Israelites could
And so I gazed upon Maud's light-brown hair, and loved it, and learned
more of love than all the poets and singers had taught me with all their
songs and sonnets. She flung it back with a sudden adroit movement, and
her face emerged, smiling.
"Why don't women wear their hair down always?" I asked. "It is
so much more beautiful."
"If it didn't tangle so dreadfully," she laughed. "There!
I've lost one of my precious hair-pins!"
I neglected the boat and had the sail spilling the wind again and again,
such was my delight in following her every movement as she searched through
the blankets for the pin. I was surprised, and joyfully, that she was
so much the woman, and the display of each trait and mannerism that was
characteristically feminine gave me keener joy. For I had been
elevating her too highly in my concepts of her, removing her too far from the
plane of the human, and too far from me. I had been making of her a
creature goddess-like and unapproachable. So I hailed with delight the
little traits that proclaimed her only woman after all, such as the toss of
the head which flung back the cloud of hair, and the search for the
pin. She was woman, my kind, on my plane, and the delightful intimacy
of kind, of man and woman, was possible, as well as the reverence and awe
in which I knew I should always hold her.
She found the pin with an adorable little cry, and I turned my attention
more fully to my steering. I proceeded to experiment, lashing and
wedging the steering-oar until the boat held on fairly well by the wind
without my assistance. Occasionally it came up too close, or fell off
too freely; but it always recovered itself and in the main behaved
"And now we shall have breakfast," I said. "But first you must
be more warmly clad."
I got out a heavy shirt, new from the slop-chest and made from blanket
goods. I knew the kind, so thick and so close of texture that it could
resist the rain and not be soaked through after hours of wetting. When
she had slipped this on over her head, I exchanged the boy's cap she wore for
a man's cap, large enough to cover her hair, and, when the flap was turned
down, to completely cover her neck and ears. The effect was
charming. Her face was of the sort that cannot but look well under all
circumstances. Nothing could destroy its exquisite oval, its well-nigh
classic lines, its delicately stencilled brows, its large brown
eyes, clear-seeing and calm, gloriously calm.
A puff, slightly stronger than usual, struck us just then.
The boat was caught as it obliquely crossed the crest of a wave.
It went over suddenly, burying its gunwale level with the sea and shipping
a bucketful or so of water. I was opening a can of tongue at the
moment, and I sprang to the sheet and cast it off just in time. The
sail flapped and fluttered, and the boat paid off. A few minutes of
regulating sufficed to put it on its course again, when I returned to the
preparation of breakfast.
"It does very well, it seems, though I am not versed in
things nautical," she said, nodding her head with grave approval at
my steering contrivance.
"But it will serve only when we are sailing by the wind,"
I explained. "When running more freely, with the wind astern
abeam, or on the quarter, it will be necessary for me to steer."
"I must say I don't understand your technicalities," she said, "but I do
your conclusion, and I don't like it. You cannot steer night and day
and for ever. So I shall expect, after breakfast, to receive my first
lesson. And then you shall lie down and sleep. We'll stand watches just
as they do on ships."
"I don't see how I am to teach you," I made protest. "I am
just learning for myself. You little thought when you trusted
yourself to me that I had had no experience whatever with small boats.
This is the first time I have ever been in one."
"Then we'll learn together, sir. And since you've had a
night's start you shall teach me what you have learned. And
now, breakfast. My! this air does give one an appetite!"
"No coffee," I said regretfully, passing her buttered sea-biscuits and a
slice of canned tongue. "And there will be no tea, no soups, nothing
hot, till we have made land somewhere, somehow."
After the simple breakfast, capped with a cup of cold water, Maud took
her lesson in steering. In teaching her I learned quite a deal myself,
though I was applying the knowledge already acquired by sailing the Ghost and
by watching the boat-steerers sail the small boats. She was an apt
pupil, and soon learned to keep the course, to luff in the puffs and to cast
off the sheet in an emergency.
Having grown tired, apparently, of the task, she relinquished the oar to
me. I had folded up the blankets, but she now proceeded to spread them
out on the bottom. When all was arranged snugly, she said:
"Now, sir, to bed. And you shall sleep until luncheon.
Till dinner-time," she corrected, remembering the arrangement on
What could I do? She insisted, and said, "Please,
please," whereupon I turned the oar over to her and obeyed. I
experienced a positive sensuous delight as I crawled into the bed she had
made with her hands. The calm and control which were so much a part
of her seemed to have been communicated to the blankets, so that I
was aware of a soft dreaminess and content, and of an oval face and brown
eyes framed in a fisherman's cap and tossing against a background now of grey
cloud, now of grey sea, and then I was aware that I had been asleep.
I looked at my watch. It was one o'clock. I had slept
seven hours! And she had been steering seven hours! When I took
the steering-oar I had first to unbend her cramped fingers.
Her modicum of strength had been exhausted, and she was unable even
to move from her position. I was compelled to let go the sheet
while I helped her to the nest of blankets and chafed her hands and
"I am so tired," she said, with a quick intake of the breath and a sigh,
drooping her head wearily.
But she straightened it the next moment. "Now don't scold,
don't you dare scold," she cried with mock defiance.
"I hope my face does not appear angry," I answered seriously; "for I
assure you I am not in the least angry."
"N-no," she considered. "It looks only reproachful."
"Then it is an honest face, for it looks what I feel. You were
not fair to yourself, nor to me. How can I ever trust you again?"
She looked penitent. "I'll be good," she said, as a naughty
child might say it. "I promise - "
"To obey as a sailor would obey his captain?"
"Yes," she answered. "It was stupid of me, I know."
"Then you must promise something else," I ventured.
"That you will not say, 'Please, please,' too often; for when you do you
are sure to override my authority."
She laughed with amused appreciation. She, too, had noticed
the power of the repeated "please."
"It is a good word - " I began.
"But I must not overwork it," she broke in.
But she laughed weakly, and her head drooped again. I left the
oar long enough to tuck the blankets about her feet and to pull a single
fold across her face. Alas! she was not strong. I looked with
misgiving toward the south-west and thought of the six hundred miles of
hardship before us - ay, if it were no worse than hardship. On this sea
a storm might blow up at any moment and destroy us. And yet I was
unafraid. I was without confidence in the future, extremely doubtful,
and yet I felt no underlying fear. It must come right, it must come right, I
repeated to myself, over and over again.
The wind freshened in the afternoon, raising a stiffer sea and trying
the boat and me severely. But the supply of food and the nine breakers
of water enabled the boat to stand up to the sea and wind, and I held on as
long as I dared. Then I removed the sprit, tightly hauling down the
peak of the sail, and we raced along under what sailors call a
Late in the afternoon I sighted a steamer's smoke on the horizon
to leeward, and I knew it either for a Russian cruiser, or, more likely,
the Macedonia still seeking the Ghost. The sun had not shone all day,
and it had been bitter cold. As night drew on, the clouds darkened and
the wind freshened, so that when Maud and I ate supper it was with our
mittens on and with me still steering and eating morsels between puffs.
By the time it was dark, wind and sea had become too strong for
the boat, and I reluctantly took in the sail and set about making a drag
or sea-anchor. I had learned of the device from the talk of the
hunters, and it was a simple thing to manufacture. Furling the sail and
lashing it securely about the mast, boom, sprit, and two pairs of spare oars,
I threw it overboard. A line connected it with the bow, and as it
floated low in the water, practically unexposed to the wind, it drifted less
rapidly than the boat. In consequence it held the boat bow on to the
sea and wind - the safest position in which to escape being swamped when the
sea is breaking into whitecaps.
"And now?" Maud asked cheerfully, when the task was accomplished and I
pulled on my mittens.
"And now we are no longer travelling toward Japan," I answered. "Our
drift is to the south-east, or south-south-east, at the rate of at least two
miles an hour."
"That will be only twenty-four miles," she urged, "if the wind remains
high all night."
"Yes, and only one hundred and forty miles if it continues for three
days and nights."
"But it won't continue," she said with easy confidence. "It
will turn around and blow fair."
"The sea is the great faithless one."
"But the wind!" she retorted. "I have heard you grow eloquent
over the brave trade-wind."
"I wish I had thought to bring Wolf Larsen's chronometer and sextant," I
said, still gloomily. "Sailing one direction, drifting another
direction, to say nothing of the set of the current in some third direction,
makes a resultant which dead reckoning can never calculate. Before long
we won't know where we are by five hundred miles."
Then I begged her pardon and promised I should not be disheartened any
more. At her solicitation I let her take the watch till midnight, - it
was then nine o'clock, but I wrapped her in blankets and put an oilskin about
her before I lay down. I slept only cat- naps. The boat was
leaping and pounding as it fell over the crests, I could hear the seas
rushing past, and spray was continually being thrown aboard. And still,
it was not a bad night, I mused - nothing to the nights I had been through on
the Ghost; nothing, perhaps, to the nights we should go through in
this cockle-shell. Its planking was three-quarters of an inch
thick. Between us and the bottom of the sea was less than an inch of
And yet, I aver it, and I aver it again, I was unafraid. The
death which Wolf Larsen and even Thomas Mugridge had made me fear, I
no longer feared. The coming of Maud Brewster into my life seemed
to have transformed me. After all, I thought, it is better and
finer to love than to be loved, if it makes something in life so
worth while that one is not loath to die for it. I forget my own life
in the love of another life; and yet, such is the paradox, I never wanted
so much to live as right now when I place the least value upon my own
life. I never had so much reason for living, was my concluding thought;
and after that, until I dozed, I contented myself with trying to pierce the
darkness to where I knew Maud crouched low in the stern-sheets, watchful of
the foaming sea and ready to call me on an instant's notice.
There is no need of going into an extended recital of our suffering in
the small boat during the many days we were driven and drifted, here and
there, willy-nilly, across the ocean. The high wind blew from the
north-west for twenty-four hours, when it fell calm, and in the night sprang
up from the south-west. This was dead in our teeth, but I took in the
sea-anchor and set sail, hauling a course on the wind which took us in a
south-south-easterly direction. It was an even choice between this and
the west-north-westerly course which the wind permitted; but the warm airs of
the south fanned my desire for a warmer sea and swayed my decision.
In three hours - it was midnight, I well remember, and as dark as I had
ever seen it on the sea - the wind, still blowing out of the south-west, rose
furiously, and once again I was compelled to set the sea-anchor.
Day broke and found me wan-eyed and the ocean lashed white, the boat
pitching, almost on end, to its drag. We were in imminent danger of
being swamped by the whitecaps. As it was, spray and spume came aboard
in such quantities that I bailed without cessation. The blankets were
soaking. Everything was wet except Maud, and she, in oilskins, rubber
boots, and sou'wester, was dry, all but her face and hands and a stray wisp
of hair. She relieved me at the bailing-hole from time to time, and
bravely she threw out the water and faced the storm. All things are
relative. It was no more than a stiff blow, but to us, fighting for
life in our frail craft, it was indeed a storm.
Cold and cheerless, the wind beating on our faces, the white
seas roaring by, we struggled through the day. Night came, but
neither of us slept. Day came, and still the wind beat on our faces
and the white seas roared past. By the second night Maud was
falling asleep from exhaustion. I covered her with oilskins and
a tarpaulin. She was comparatively dry, but she was numb with
the cold. I feared greatly that she might die in the night; but
day broke, cold and cheerless, with the same clouded sky and beating wind
and roaring seas.
I had had no sleep for forty-eight hours. I was wet and chilled
to the marrow, till I felt more dead than alive. My body was
stiff from exertion as well as from cold, and my aching muscles gave
me the severest torture whenever I used them, and I used
them continually. And all the time we were being driven off into
the north-east, directly away from Japan and toward bleak Bering Sea.
And still we lived, and the boat lived, and the wind blew unabated. In
fact, toward nightfall of the third day it increased a trifle and something
more. The boat's bow plunged under a crest, and we came through
quarter-full of water. I bailed like a madman. The liability of
shipping another such sea was enormously increased by the water that weighed
the boat down and robbed it of its buoyancy. And another such sea meant the
end. When I had the boat empty again I was forced to take away the
tarpaulin which covered Maud, in order that I might lash it down across the
bow. It was well I did, for it covered the boat fully a third of the
way aft, and three times, in the next several hours, it flung off the bulk
of the down-rushing water when the bow shoved under the seas.
Maud's condition was pitiable. She sat crouched in the bottom
of the boat, her lips blue, her face grey and plainly showing the pain she
suffered. But ever her eyes looked bravely at me, and ever her lips
uttered brave words.
The worst of the storm must have blown that night, though little
I noticed it. I had succumbed and slept where I sat in the
stern- sheets. The morning of the fourth day found the wind diminished
to a gentle whisper, the sea dying down and the sun shining upon us. Oh,
the blessed sun! How we bathed our poor bodies in its delicious warmth,
reviving like bugs and crawling things after a storm. We smiled again,
said amusing things, and waxed optimistic over our situation. Yet it
was, if anything, worse than ever. We were farther from Japan than the
night we left the Ghost. Nor could I more than roughly guess our
latitude and longitude. At a calculation of a two-mile drift per hour,
during the seventy and odd hours of the storm, we had been driven at least
one hundred and fifty miles to the north-east. But was such calculated
drift correct? For all I knew, it might have been four miles per
hour instead of two. In which case we were another hundred and
fifty miles to the bad.
Where we were I did not know, though there was quite a likelihood that
we were in the vicinity of the Ghost. There were seals about us, and I
was prepared to sight a sealing-schooner at any time. We did sight one,
in the afternoon, when the north-west breeze had sprung up freshly once
more. But the strange schooner lost itself on the sky-line and we alone
occupied the circle of the sea.
Came days of fog, when even Maud's spirit drooped and there were
no merry words upon her lips; days of calm, when we floated on the lonely
immensity of sea, oppressed by its greatness and yet marvelling at the
miracle of tiny life, for we still lived and struggled to live; days of sleet
and wind and snow-squalls, when nothing could keep us warm; or days of
drizzling rain, when we filled our water-breakers from the drip of the wet
And ever I loved Maud with an increasing love. She was so
many- sided, so many-mooded - "protean-mooded" I called her. But
I called her this, and other and dearer things, in my thoughts
only. Though the declaration of my love urged and trembled on my tongue
a thousand times, I knew that it was no time for such a declaration. If
for no other reason, it was no time, when one was protecting and trying to
save a woman, to ask that woman for her love. Delicate as was the
situation, not alone in this but in other ways, I flattered myself that I was
able to deal delicately with it; and also I flattered myself that by look or
sign I gave no advertisement of the love I felt for her. We were like
good comrades, and we grew better comrades as the days went by.
One thing about her which surprised me was her lack of timidity
and fear. The terrible sea, the frail boat, the storms, the
suffering, the strangeness and isolation of the situation, - all that
should have frightened a robust woman, - seemed to make no impression
upon her who had known life only in its most sheltered and
consummately artificial aspects, and who was herself all fire and dew and
mist, sublimated spirit, all that was soft and tender and clinging
in woman. And yet I am wrong. She WAS timid and afraid, but
she possessed courage. The flesh and the qualms of the flesh she
was heir to, but the flesh bore heavily only on the flesh. And she
was spirit, first and always spirit, etherealized essence of life, calm as
her calm eyes, and sure of permanence in the changing order of the
Came days of storm, days and nights of storm, when the ocean menaced us
with its roaring whiteness, and the wind smote our struggling boat with a
Titan's buffets. And ever we were flung off, farther and farther, to
the north-east. It was in such a storm, and the worst that we had
experienced, that I cast a weary glance to leeward, not in quest of anything,
but more from the weariness of facing the elemental strife, and in mute
appeal, almost, to the wrathful powers to cease and let us be. What I
saw I could not at first believe. Days and nights of sleeplessness
and anxiety had doubtless turned my head. I looked back at Maud,
to identify myself, as it were, in time and space. The sight of
her dear wet cheeks, her flying hair, and her brave brown eyes convinced
me that my vision was still healthy. Again I turned my face to leeward,
and again I saw the jutting promontory, black and high and naked, the raging
surf that broke about its base and beat its front high up with spouting
fountains, the black and forbidden coast-line running toward the south-east
and fringed with a tremendous scarf of white.
"Maud," I said. "Maud."
She turned her head and beheld the sight.
"It cannot be Alaska!" she cried.
"Alas, no," I answered, and asked, "Can you swim?"
She shook her head.
"Neither can I," I said. "So we must get ashore without
swimming, in some opening between the rocks through which we can drive
the boat and clamber out. But we must be quick, most quick -
I spoke with a confidence she knew I did not feel, for she looked at me
with that unfaltering gaze of hers and said:
"I have not thanked you yet for all you have done for me but - "
She hesitated, as if in doubt how best to word her gratitude.
"Well?" I said, brutally, for I was not quite pleased with her thanking
"You might help me," she smiled.
"To acknowledge your obligations before you die? Not at all.
We are not going to die. We shall land on that island, and we
shall be snug and sheltered before the day is done."
I spoke stoutly, but I did not believe a word. Nor was I
prompted to lie through fear. I felt no fear, though I was sure of
death in that boiling surge amongst the rocks which was rapidly
growing nearer. It was impossible to hoist sail and claw off that
shore. The wind would instantly capsize the boat; the seas would swamp
it the moment it fell into the trough; and, besides, the sail, lashed to
the spare oars, dragged in the sea ahead of us.
As I say, I was not afraid to meet my own death, there, a few hundred
yards to leeward; but I was appalled at the thought that Maud must die.
My cursed imagination saw her beaten and mangled against the rocks, and it
was too terrible. I strove to compel myself to think we would make the
landing safely, and so I spoke, not what I believed, but what I preferred to
I recoiled before contemplation of that frightful death, and for
a moment I entertained the wild idea of seizing Maud in my arms
and leaping overboard. Then I resolved to wait, and at the
last moment, when we entered on the final stretch, to take her in my arms
and proclaim my love, and, with her in my embrace, to make the desperate
struggle and die.
Instinctively we drew closer together in the bottom of the boat.
I felt her mittened hand come out to mine. And thus, without
speech, we waited the end. We were not far off the line the wind made
with the western edge of the promontory, and I watched in the hope
that some set of the current or send of the sea would drift us past before
we reached the surf.
"We shall go clear," I said, with a confidence which I knew deceived
neither of us.
"By God, we WILL go clear!" I cried, five minutes later.
The oath left my lips in my excitement - the first, I do believe, in my
life, unless "trouble it," an expletive of my youth, be accounted an
"I beg your pardon," I said.
"You have convinced me of your sincerity," she said, with a
faint smile. "I do know, now, that we shall go clear."
I had seen a distant headland past the extreme edge of the promontory,
and as we looked we could see grow the intervening coastline of what was
evidently a deep cove. At the same time there broke upon our ears a
continuous and mighty bellowing. It partook of the magnitude and volume
of distant thunder, and it came to us directly from leeward, rising above the
crash of the surf and travelling directly in the teeth of the storm. As
we passed the point the whole cove burst upon our view, a half-moon of
white sandy beach upon which broke a huge surf, and which was covered with
myriads of seals. It was from them that the great bellowing went
"A rookery!" I cried. "Now are we indeed saved. There must be
men and cruisers to protect them from the seal-hunters. Possibly
there is a station ashore."
But as I studied the surf which beat upon the beach, I said, "Still bad,
but not so bad. And now, if the gods be truly kind, we shall drift by
that next headland and come upon a perfectly sheltered beach, where we may
land without wetting our feet."
And the gods were kind. The first and second headlands
were directly in line with the south-west wind; but once around
the second, - and we went perilously near, - we picked up the
third headland, still in line with the wind and with the other two.
But the cove that intervened! It penetrated deep into the land,
and the tide, setting in, drifted us under the shelter of the point. Here
the sea was calm, save for a heavy but smooth ground-swell, and I took in the
sea-anchor and began to row. From the point the shore curved away, more
and more to the south and west, until at last it disclosed a cove within the
cove, a little land-locked harbour, the water level as a pond, broken only by
tiny ripples where vagrant breaths and wisps of the storm hurtled down from
over the frowning wall of rock that backed the beach a hundred
Here were no seals whatever. The boat's stern touched the
hard shingle. I sprang out, extending my hand to Maud. The next
moment she was beside me. As my fingers released hers, she clutched
for my arm hastily. At the same moment I swayed, as about to fall
to the sand. This was the startling effect of the cessation
of motion. We had been so long upon the moving, rocking sea that
the stable land was a shock to us. We expected the beach to lift
up this way and that, and the rocky walls to swing back and forth like the
sides of a ship; and when we braced ourselves, automatically, for these
various expected movements, their non-occurrence quite overcame our
"I really must sit down," Maud said, with a nervous laugh and a dizzy
gesture, and forthwith she sat down on the sand.
I attended to making the boat secure and joined her. Thus
we landed on Endeavour Island, as we came to it, land-sick from
long custom of the sea.
"Fool!" I cried aloud in my vexation.
I had unloaded the boat and carried its contents high up on the beach,
where I had set about making a camp. There was driftwood, though not
much, on the beach, and the sight of a coffee tin I had taken from the
Ghost's larder had given me the idea of a fire.
"Blithering idiot!" I was continuing.
But Maud said, "Tut, tut," in gentle reproval, and then asked why I was
a blithering idiot.
"No matches," I groaned. "Not a match did I bring. And now
we shall have no hot coffee, soup, tea, or anything!"
"Wasn't it - er - Crusoe who rubbed sticks together?" she drawled.
"But I have read the personal narratives of a score of shipwrecked men
who tried, and tried in vain," I answered. "I remember Winters, a
newspaper fellow with an Alaskan and Siberian reputation. Met him at
the Bibelot once, and he was telling us how he attempted to make a fire with
a couple of sticks. It was most amusing. He told it inimitably,
but it was the story of a failure. I remember his conclusion, his black eyes
flashing as he said, 'Gentlemen, the South Sea Islander may do it, the Malay
may do it, but take my word it's beyond the white man.'"
"Oh, well, we've managed so far without it," she said cheerfully. "And
there's no reason why we cannot still manage without it."
"But think of the coffee!" I cried. "It's good coffee, too,
I know. I took it from Larsen's private stores. And look at
that good wood."
I confess, I wanted the coffee badly; and I learned, not long afterward,
that the berry was likewise a little weakness of Maud's. Besides, we had been
so long on a cold diet that we were numb inside as well as out.
Anything warm would have been most gratifying. But I complained no more
and set about making a tent of the sail for Maud.
I had looked upon it as a simple task, what of the oars, mast, boom, and
sprit, to say nothing of plenty of lines. But as I was without
experience, and as every detail was an experiment and every successful detail
an invention, the day was well gone before her shelter was an accomplished
fact. And then, that night, it rained, and she was flooded out and
driven back into the boat.
The next morning I dug a shallow ditch around the tent, and, an hour
later, a sudden gust of wind, whipping over the rocky wall behind us, picked
up the tent and smashed it down on the sand thirty yards away.
Maud laughed at my crestfallen expression, and I said, "As soon as the
wind abates I intend going in the boat to explore the island. There must be a
station somewhere, and men. And ships must visit the station.
Some Government must protect all these seals. But I wish to have you
comfortable before I start."
"I should like to go with you," was all she said.
"It would be better if you remained. You have had enough
of hardship. It is a miracle that you have survived. And it won't
be comfortable in the boat rowing and sailing in this rainy weather. What
you need is rest, and I should like you to remain and get it."
Something suspiciously akin to moistness dimmed her beautiful
eyes before she dropped them and partly turned away her head.
"I should prefer going with you," she said in a low voice, in
which there was just a hint of appeal.
"I might be able to help you a - " her voice broke, - "a little. And if
anything should happen to you, think of me left here alone."
"Oh, I intend being very careful," I answered. "And I shall not
go so far but what I can get back before night. Yes, all said
and done, I think it vastly better for you to remain, and sleep, and rest
and do nothing."
She turned and looked me in the eyes. Her gaze was
unfaltering, but soft.
"Please, please," she said, oh, so softly.
I stiffened myself to refuse, and shook my head. Still she
waited and looked at me. I tried to word my refusal, but wavered.
I saw the glad light spring into her eyes and knew that I had lost.
It was impossible to say no after that.
The wind died down in the afternoon, and we were prepared to start the
following morning. There was no way of penetrating the island from our
cove, for the walls rose perpendicularly from the beach, and, on either side
of the cove, rose from the deep water.
Morning broke dull and grey, but calm, and I was awake early and had the
boat in readiness.
"Fool! Imbecile! Yahoo!" I shouted, when I thought it was meet
to arouse Maud; but this time I shouted in merriment as I danced about the
beach, bareheaded, in mock despair.
Her head appeared under the flap of the sail.
"What now?" she asked sleepily, and, withal, curiously.
"Coffee!" I cried. "What do you say to a cup of coffee?
hot coffee? piping hot?"
"My!" she murmured, "you startled me, and you are cruel. Here
I have been composing my soul to do without it, and here you are vexing me
with your vain suggestions."
"Watch me," I said.
From under clefts among the rocks I gathered a few dry sticks
and chips. These I whittled into shavings or split into
kindling. From my note-book I tore out a page, and from the ammunition
box took a shot-gun shell. Removing the wads from the latter with
my knife, I emptied the powder on a flat rock. Next I pried
the primer, or cap, from the shell, and laid it on the rock, in the midst
of the scattered powder. All was ready. Maud still watched from
the tent. Holding the paper in my lelf hand, I smashed down upon the
cap with a rock held in my right. There was a puff of white smoke, a
burst of flame, and the rough edge of the paper was alight.
Maud clapped her hands gleefully. "Prometheus!" she cried.
But I was too occupied to acknowledge her delight. The
feeble flame must be cherished tenderly if it were to gather strength
and live. I fed it, shaving by shaving, and sliver by sliver, till
at last it was snapping and crackling as it laid hold of the smaller chips
and sticks. To be cast away on an island had not entered into my
calculations, so we were without a kettle or cooking utensils of any sort;
but I made shift with the tin used for bailing the boat, and later, as we
consumed our supply of canned goods, we accumulated quite an imposing array
of cooking vessels.
I boiled the water, but it was Maud who made the coffee. And
how good it was! My contribution was canned beef fried with
crumbled sea-biscuit and water. The breakfast was a success, and we
sat about the fire much longer than enterprising explorers should
have done, sipping the hot black coffee and talking over our situation.
I was confident that we should find a station in some one of the coves,
for I knew that the rookeries of Bering Sea were thus guarded; but Maud
advanced the theory - to prepare me for disappointment, I do believe, if
disappointment were to come - that we had discovered an unknown
rookery. She was in very good spirits, however, and made quite merry in
accepting our plight as a grave one.
"If you are right," I said, "then we must prepare to winter here. Our
food will not last, but there are the seals. They go away in the fall,
so I must soon begin to lay in a supply of meat. Then there will be
huts to build and driftwood to gather. Also we shall try out seal fat
for lighting purposes. Altogether, we'll have our hands full if we find
the island uninhabited. Which we shall not, I know."
But she was right. We sailed with a beam wind along the
shore, searching the coves with our glasses and landing
occasionally, without finding a sign of human life. Yet we learned that
we were not the first who had landed on Endeavour Island. High up on
the beach of the second cove from ours, we discovered the splintered wreck
of a boat - a sealer's boat, for the rowlocks were bound in sennit, a
gun-rack was on the starboard side of the bow, and in white letters was
faintly visible Gazelle No. 2. The boat had lain there for a long time,
for it was half filled with sand, and the splintered wood had that
weather-worn appearance due to long exposure to the elements. In the
stern-sheets I found a rusty ten- gauge shot-gun and a sailor's sheath-knife
broken short across and so rusted as to be almost unrecognizable.
"They got away," I said cheerfully; but I felt a sinking at the heart
and seemed to divine the presence of bleached bones somewhere on that
I did not wish Maud's spirits to be dampened by such a find, so I turned
seaward again with our boat and skirted the north-eastern point of the
island. There were no beaches on the southern shore, and by early
afternoon we rounded the black promontory and completed the circumnavigation
of the island. I estimated its circumference at twenty-five miles, its
width as varying from two to five miles; while my most conservative
calculation placed on its beaches two hundred thousand seals. The
island was highest at its extreme south-western point, the headlands and
backbone diminishing regularly until the north-eastern portion was only a few
feet above the sea. With the exception of our little cove, the other
beaches sloped gently back for a distance of half-a-mile or so, into what
I might call rocky meadows, with here and there patches of moss and tundra
grass. Here the seals hauled out, and the old bulls guarded their
harems, while the young bulls hauled out by themselves.
This brief description is all that Endeavour Island merits.
Damp and soggy where it was not sharp and rocky, buffeted by storm
winds and lashed by the sea, with the air continually a-tremble with
the bellowing of two hundred thousand amphibians, it was a melancholy and
miserable sojourning-place. Maud, who had prepared me
for disappointment, and who had been sprightly and vivacious all
day, broke down as we landed in our own little cove. She strove
bravely to hide it from me, but while I was kindling another fire I
knew she was stifling her sobs in the blankets under the sail-tent.
It was my turn to be cheerful, and I played the part to the best of my
ability, and with such success that I brought the laughter back into her dear
eyes and song on her lips; for she sang to me before she went to an early
bed. It was the first time I had heard her sing, and I lay by the fire,
listening and transported, for she was nothing if not an artist in everything
she did, and her voice, though not strong, was wonderfully sweet and
I still slept in the boat, and I lay awake long that night, gazing up at
the first stars I had seen in many nights and pondering the situation.
Responsibility of this sort was a new thing to me. Wolf Larsen had been quite
right. I had stood on my father's legs. My lawyers and agents had taken
care of my money for me. I had had no responsibilities at all.
Then, on the Ghost I had learned to be responsible for myself. And now,
for the first time in my life, I found myself responsible for some one
else. And it was required of me that this should be the gravest of
responsibilities, for she was the one woman in the world - the one small
woman, as I loved to think of her.
No wonder we called it Endeavour Island. For two weeks we
toiled at building a hut. Maud insisted on helping, and I could have
wept over her bruised and bleeding hands. And still, I was proud of
her because of it. There was something heroic about this
gently-bred woman enduring our terrible hardship and with her pittance
of strength bending to the tasks of a peasant woman. She
gathered many of the stones which I built into the walls of the hut;
also, she turned a deaf ear to my entreaties when I begged her to
desist. She compromised, however, by taking upon herself the
lighter labours of cooking and gathering driftwood and moss for
our winter's supply.
The hut's walls rose without difficulty, and everything went smoothly
until the problem of the roof confronted me. Of what use the four walls
without a roof? And of what could a roof be made? There were the spare
oars, very true. They would serve as roof- beams; but with what was I
to cover them? Moss would never do. Tundra grass was
impracticable. We needed the sail for the boat, and the tarpaulin had
begun to leak.
"Winters used walrus skins on his hut," I said.
"There are the seals," she suggested.
So next day the hunting began. I did not know how to shoot, but
I proceeded to learn. And when I had expended some thirty shells
for three seals, I decided that the ammunition would be exhausted before I
acquired the necessary knowledge. I had used eight shells for lighting
fires before I hit upon the device of banking the embers with wet moss, and
there remained not over a hundred shells in the box.
"We must club the seals," I announced, when convinced of my
poor marksmanship. "I have heard the sealers talk about clubbing
"They are so pretty," she objected. "I cannot bear to think of
it being done. It is so directly brutal, you know; so different
from shooting them."
"That roof must go on," I answered grimly. "Winter is almost
here. It is our lives against theirs. It is unfortunate we
haven't plenty of ammunition, but I think, anyway, that they suffer
less from being clubbed than from being all shot up. Besides, I
shall do the clubbing."
"That's just it," she began eagerly, and broke off in
"Of course," I began, "if you prefer - "
"But what shall I be doing?" she interrupted, with that softness I knew
full well to be insistence.
"Gathering firewood and cooking dinner," I answered lightly.
She shook her head. "It is too dangerous for you to
"I know, I know," she waived my protest. "I am only a weak
woman, but just my small assistance may enable you to escape disaster."
"But the clubbing?" I suggested.
"Of course, you will do that. I shall probably scream. I'll
look away when - "
"The danger is most serious," I laughed.
"I shall use my judgment when to look and when not to look," she replied
with a grand air.
The upshot of the affair was that she accompanied me next morning. I
rowed into the adjoining cove and up to the edge of the beach. There were
seals all about us in the water, and the bellowing thousands on the beach
compelled us to shout at each other to make ourselves heard.
"I know men club them," I said, trying to reassure myself, and gazing
doubtfully at a large bull, not thirty feet away, upreared on his
fore-flippers and regarding me intently. "But the question is, How do
they club them?"
"Let us gather tundra grass and thatch the roof," Maud said.
She was as frightened as I at the prospect, and we had reason to
be gazing at close range at the gleaming teeth and dog-like mouths.
"I always thought they were afraid of men," I said.
"How do I know they are not afraid?" I queried a moment later, after
having rowed a few more strokes along the beach. "Perhaps, if I were to
step boldly ashore, they would cut for it, and I could not catch up with
one." And still I hesitated.
"I heard of a man, once, who invaded the nesting grounds of wild geese,"
Maud said. "They killed him."
"Yes, the geese. My brother told me about it when I was a
"But I know men club them," I persisted.
"I think the tundra grass will make just as good a roof," she said.
Far from her intention, her words were maddening me, driving me on. I
could not play the coward before her eyes. "Here goes," I said, backing
water with one oar and running the bow ashore.
I stepped out and advanced valiantly upon a long-maned bull in the midst
of his wives. I was armed with the regular club with which the
boat-pullers killed the wounded seals gaffed aboard by the hunters. It
was only a foot and a half long, and in my superb ignorance I never dreamed
that the club used ashore when raiding the rookeries measured four to five
feet. The cows lumbered out of my way, and the distance between me and
the bull decreased. He raised himself on his flippers with an angry
movement. We were a dozen feet apart. Still I advanced steadily,
looking for him to turn tail at any moment and run.
At six feet the panicky thought rushed into my mind, What if he will not
run? Why, then I shall club him, came the answer. In my fear I
had forgotten that I was there to get the bull instead of to make him
run. And just then he gave a snort and a snarl and rushed at me.
His eyes were blazing, his mouth was wide open; the teeth gleamed cruelly
white. Without shame, I confess that it was I who turned and footed
it. He ran awkwardly, but he ran well. He was but two paces
behind when I tumbled into the boat, and as I shoved off with an oar his
teeth crunched down upon the blade. The stout wood was crushed like an
egg-shell. Maud and I were astounded. A moment later he had dived
under the boat, seized the keel in his mouth, and was shaking the boat
"My!" said Maud. "Let's go back."
I shook my head. "I can do what other men have done, and I
know that other men have clubbed seals. But I think I'll leave
the bulls alone next time."
"I wish you wouldn't," she said.
"Now don't say, 'Please, please,'" I cried, half angrily, I
She made no reply, and I knew my tone must have hurt her.
"I beg your pardon," I said, or shouted, rather, in order to make myself
heard above the roar of the rookery. "If you say so, I'll turn and go
back; but honestly, I'd rather stay."
"Now don't say that this is what you get for bringing a woman along,"
she said. She smiled at me whimsically, gloriously, and I knew there
was no need for forgiveness.
I rowed a couple of hundred feet along the beach so as to recover my
nerves, and then stepped ashore again.
"Do be cautious," she called after me.
I nodded my head and proceeded to make a flank attack on the nearest
harem. All went well until I aimed a blow at an outlying cowls head and
fell short. She snorted and tried to scramble away. I ran in close and
struck another blow, hitting the shoulder instead of the head.
"Watch out!" I heard Maud scream.
In my excitement I had not been taking notice of other things, and I
looked up to see the lord of the harem charging down upon me. Again I fled to
the boat, hotly pursued; but this time Maud made no suggestion of turning
"It would be better, I imagine, if you let harems alone and devoted your
attention to lonely and inoffensive-looking seals," was what she said.
"I think I have read something about them. Dr. Jordan's book, I
believe. They are the young bulls, not old enough to have harems of
their own. He called them the holluschickie, or something like
that. It seems to me if we find where they haul out - "
"It seems to me that your fighting instinct is aroused," I laughed.
She flushed quickly and prettily. "I'll admit I don't like
defeat any more than you do, or any more than I like the idea of
killing such pretty, inoffensive creatures."
"Pretty!" I sniffed. "I failed to mark anything
pre-eminently pretty about those foamy-mouthed beasts that raced me."
"Your point of view," she laughed. "You lacked perspective.
Now if you did not have to get so close to the subject - "
"The very thing!" I cried. "What I need is a longer club.
And there's that broken oar ready to hand."
"It just comes to me," she said, "that Captain Larsen was telling me how
the men raided the rookeries. They drive the seals, in small herds, a
short distance inland before they kill them."
"I don't care to undertake the herding of one of those harems,"
"But there are the holluschickie," she said. "The
holluschickie haul out by themselves, and Dr. Jordan says that paths are
left between the harems, and that as long as the holluschickie
keep strictly to the path they are unmolested by the masters of
"There's one now," I said, pointing to a young bull in the water. "Let's
watch him, and follow him if he hauls out."
He swam directly to the beach and clambered out into a small opening
between two harems, the masters of which made warning noises but did not
attack him. We watched him travel slowly inward, threading about among
the harems along what must have been the path.
"Here goes," I said, stepping out; but I confess my heart was in
my mouth as I thought of going through the heart of that
"It would be wise to make the boat fast," Maud said.
She had stepped out beside me, and I regarded her with wonderment.
She nodded her head determinedly. "Yes, I'm going with you, so
you may as well secure the boat and arm me with a club."
"Let's go back," I said dejectedly. "I think tundra grass,
will do, after all."
"You know it won't," was her reply. "Shall I lead?"
With a shrug of the shoulders, but with the warmest admiration and pride
at heart for this woman, I equipped her with the broken oar and took another
for myself. It was with nervous trepidation that we made the first few
rods of the journey. Once Maud screamed in terror as a cow thrust an
inquisitive nose toward her foot, and several times I quickened my pace for
the same reason. But, beyond warning coughs from either side, there
were no signs of hostility. It was a rookery which had never been raided by
the hunters, and in consequence the seals were mild-tempered and at the same
In the very heart of the herd the din was terrific. It was
almost dizzying in its effect. I paused and smiled reassuringly at
Maud, for I had recovered my equanimity sooner than she. I could
see that she was still badly frightened. She came close to me
"I'm dreadfully afraid!"
And I was not. Though the novelty had not yet worn off,
the peaceful comportment of the seals had quieted my alarm. Maud
"I'm afraid, and I'm not afraid," she chattered with shaking jaws. "It's
my miserable body, not I."
"It's all right, it's all right," I reassured her, my arm
passing instinctively and protectingly around her.
I shall never forget, in that moment, how instantly conscious I became
of my manhood. The primitive deeps of my nature stirred. I felt
myself masculine, the protector of the weak, the fighting male. And,
best of all, I felt myself the protector of my loved one. She leaned
against me, so light and lily-frail, and as her trembling eased away it
seemed as though I became aware of prodigious strength. I felt myself a
match for the most ferocious bull in the herd, and I know, had such a bull
charged upon me, that I should have met it unflinchingly and quite coolly,
and I know that I should have killed it.
"I am all right now," she said, looking up at me gratefully.
"Let us go on."
And that the strength in me had quieted her and given her confidence,
filled me with an exultant joy. The youth of the race seemed burgeoning
in me, over-civilized man that I was, and I lived for myself the old hunting
days and forest nights of my remote and forgotten ancestry. I had much
for which to thank Wolf Larsen, was my thought as we went along the path
between the jostling harems.
A quarter of a mile inland we came upon the holluschickie - sleek young
bulls, living out the loneliness of their bachelorhood and gathering strength
against the day when they would fight their way into the ranks of the
Everything now went smoothly. I seemed to know just what to do
and how to do it. Shouting, making threatening gestures with my
club, and even prodding the lazy ones, I quickly cut out a score of
the young bachelors from their companions. Whenever one made
an attempt to break back toward the water, I headed it off. Maud
took an active part in the drive, and with her cries and flourishings
of the broken oar was of considerable assistance. I noticed,
though, that whenever one looked tired and lagged, she let it slip
past. But I noticed, also, whenever one, with a show of fight, tried
to break past, that her eyes glinted and showed bright, and she rapped it
smartly with her club.
"My, it's exciting!" she cried, pausing from sheer weakness.
"I think I'll sit down."
I drove the little herd (a dozen strong, now, what of the escapes she
had permitted) a hundred yards farther on; and by the time she joined me I
had finished the slaughter and was beginning to skin. An hour later we went
proudly back along the path between the harems. And twice again we came
down the path burdened with skins, till I thought we had enough to roof the
hut. I set the sail, laid one tack out of the cove, and on the other
tack made our own little inner cove.
"It's just like home-coming," Maud said, as I ran the boat ashore.
I heard her words with a responsive thrill, it was all so
dearly intimate and natural, and I said:
"It seems as though I have lived this life always. The world
of books and bookish folk is very vague, more like a dream memory than an
actuality. I surely have hunted and forayed and fought all the days of
my life. And you, too, seem a part of it. You are - " I was
on the verge of saying, "my woman, my mate," but glibly changed it to -
"standing the hardship well."
But her ear had caught the flaw. She recognized a flight
that midmost broke. She gave me a quick look.
"Not that. You were saying - ?"
"That the American Mrs. Meynell was living the life of a savage
and living it quite successfully," I said easily.
"Oh," was all she replied; but I could have sworn there was a note of
disappointment in her voice.
But "my woman, my mate" kept ringing in my head for the rest of the day
and for many days. Yet never did it ring more loudly than that night,
as I watched her draw back the blanket of moss from the coals, blow up the
fire, and cook the evening meal. It must have been latent savagery
stirring in me, for the old words, so bound up with the roots of the race, to
grip me and thrill me. And grip and thrill they did, till I fell
asleep, murmuring them to myself over and over again.
"It will smell," I said, "but it will keep in the heat and keep out the
rain and snow."
We were surveying the completed seal-skin roof.
"It is clumsy, but it will serve the purpose, and that is the
main thing," I went on, yearning for her praise.
And she clapped her hands and declared that she was hugely pleased.
"But it is dark in here," she said the next moment, her
shoulders shrinking with a little involuntary shiver.
"You might have suggested a window when the walls were going up,"
I said. "It was for you, and you should have seen the need of
"But I never do see the obvious, you know," she laughed back.
"And besides, you can knock a hole in the wall at any time.'
"Quite true; I had not thought of it," I replied, wagging my
head sagely. "But have you thought of ordering the window-glass?
Just call up the firm, - Red, 4451, I think it is, - and tell them
what size and kind of glass you wish."
"That means - " she began.
It was a dark and evil-appearing thing, that hut, not fit for
aught better than swine in a civilized land; but for us, who had known the
misery of the open boat, it was a snug little habitation. Following the
housewarming, which was accomplished by means of seal-oil and a wick made
from cotton calking, came the hunting for our winter's meat and the building
of the second hut. It was a simple affair, now, to go forth in the
morning and return by noon with a boatload of seals. And then, while I
worked at building the hut, Maud tried out the oil from the blubber and kept
a slow fire under the frames of meat. I had heard of jerking beef on
the plains, and our seal-meat, cut in thin strips and hung in the smoke,
The second hut was easier to erect, for I built it against the first,
and only three walls were required. But it was work, hard work, all of
it. Maud and I worked from dawn till dark, to the limit of our
strength, so that when night came we crawled stiffly to bed and slept the
animal-like sleep exhaustion. And yet Maud declared that she had never
felt better or stronger in her life. I knew this was true of myself,
but hers was such a lily strength that I feared she would break down.
Often and often, her last- reserve force gone, I have seen her stretched flat
on her back on the sand in the way she had of resting and recuperating.
And then she would be up on her feet and toiling hard as ever. Where
she obtained this strength was the marvel to me.
"Think of the long rest this winter," was her reply to
my remonstrances. "Why, we'll be clamorous for something to do."
We held a housewarming in my hut the night it was roofed. It
was the end of the third day of a fierce storm which had swung around the
compass from the south-east to the north-west, and which was then blowing
directly in upon us. The beaches of the outer cove were thundering with
the surf, and even in our land-locked inner cove a respectable sea was
breaking. No high backbone of island sheltered us from the wind, and it
whistled and bellowed about the hut till at times I feared for the strength
of the walls. The skin roof, stretched tightly as a drumhead, I had
thought, sagged and bellied with every gust; and innumerable interstices in
the walls, not so tightly stuffed with moss as Maud had supposed,
disclosed themselves. Yet the seal-oil burned brightly and we were warm
It was a pleasant evening indeed, and we voted that as a social function
on Endeavour Island it had not yet been eclipsed. Our minds were at
ease. Not only had we resigned ourselves to the bitter winter, but we
were prepared for it. The seals could depart on their mysterious
journey into the south at any time, now, for all we cared; and the storms
held no terror for us. Not only were we sure of being dry and warm and
sheltered from the wind, but we had the softest and most luxurious mattresses
that could be made from moss. This had been Maud's idea, and she had
herself jealously gathered all the moss. This was to be my first night
on the mattress, and I knew I should sleep the sweeter because she
had made it.
As she rose to go she turned to me with the whimsical way she had, and
"Something is going to happen - is happening, for that matter.
I feel it. Something is coming here, to us. It is coming
now. I don't know what, but it is coming."
"Good or bad?" I asked.
She shook her head. "I don't know, but it is there, somewhere."
She pointed in the direction of the sea and wind.
"It's a lee shore," I laughed, "and I am sure I'd rather be here than
arriving, a night like this."
"You are not frightened?" I asked, as I stepped to open the door for
Her eyes looked bravely into mine.
"And you feel well? perfectly well?"
"Never better," was her answer.
We talked a little longer before she went.
"Good-night, Maud," I said.
"Good-night, Humphrey," she said.
This use of our given names had come about quite as a matter of course,
and was as unpremeditated as it was natural. In that moment I could
have put my arms around her and drawn her to me. I should certainly
have done so out in that world to which we belonged. As it was, the
situation stopped there in the only way it could; but I was left alone in my
little hut, glowing warmly through and through with a pleasant satisfaction;
and I knew that a tie, or a tacit something, existed between us which had not
I awoke, oppressed by a mysterious sensation. There
seemed something missing in my environment. But the mystery
and oppressiveness vanished after the first few seconds of waking, when I
identified the missing something as the wind. I had fallen asleep in
that state of nerve tension with which one meets the continuous shock of
sound or movement, and I had awakened, still tense, bracing myself to meet
the pressure of something which no longer bore upon me.
It was the first night I had spent under cover in several months, and I
lay luxuriously for some minutes under my blankets (for once not wet with fog
or spray), analysing, first, the effect produced upon me by the cessation of
the wind, and next, the joy which was mine from resting on the mattress made
by Maud's hands. When I had dressed and opened the door, I heard the
waves still lapping on the beach, garrulously attesting the fury of the
night. It was a clear day, and the sun was shining. I had slept
late, and I stepped outside with sudden energy, bent upon making up lost time
as befitted a dweller on Endeavour Island.
And when outside, I stopped short. I believed my eyes
without question, and yet I was for the moment stunned by what
they disclosed to me. There, on the beach, not fifty feet away, bow
on, dismasted, was a black-hulled vessel. Masts and booms,
tangled with shrouds, sheets, and rent canvas, were rubbing
gently alongside. I could have rubbed my eyes as I looked. There
was the home-made galley we had built, the familiar break of the poop,
the low yacht-cabin scarcely rising above the rail. It was the
What freak of fortune had brought it here - here of all spots?
what chance of chances? I looked at the bleak, inaccessible wall at
my back and know the profundity of despair. Escape was hopeless,
out of the question. I thought of Maud, asleep there in the hut we
had reared; I remembered her "Good-night, Humphrey"; "my woman, my mate,"
went ringing through my brain, but now, alas, it was a knell that
sounded. Then everything went black before my eyes.
Possibly it was the fraction of a second, but I had no knowledge of how
long an interval had lapsed before I was myself again. There lay the
Ghost, bow on to the beach, her splintered bowsprit projecting over the sand,
her tangled spars rubbing against her side to the lift of the crooning
waves. Something must be done, must be done.
It came upon me suddenly, as strange, that nothing moved aboard. Wearied
from the night of struggle and wreck, all hands were yet asleep, I
thought. My next thought was that Maud and I might yet escape. If
we could take to the boat and make round the point before any one
awoke? I would call her and start. My hand was lifted at her door
to knock, when I recollected the smallness of the island. We could
never hide ourselves upon it. There was nothing for us but the wide raw
ocean. I thought of our snug little huts, our supplies of meat and oil
and moss and firewood, and I knew that we could never survive the wintry sea
and the great storms which were to come.
So I stood, with hesitant knuckle, without her door. It
was impossible, impossible. A wild thought of rushing in and
killing her as she slept rose in my mind. And then, in a flash, the
better solution came to me. All hands were asleep. Why not creep
aboard the Ghost, - well I knew the way to Wolf Larsen's bunk, - and
kill him in his sleep? After that - well, we would see. But with
him dead there was time and space in which to prepare to do other things;
and besides, whatever new situation arose, it could not possibly be worse
than the present one.
My knife was at my hip. I returned to my hut for the
shot-gun, made sure it was loaded, and went down to the Ghost. With
some difficulty, and at the expense of a wetting to the waist, I
climbed aboard. The forecastle scuttle was open. I paused to
listen for the breathing of the men, but there was no breathing. I
almost gasped as the thought came to me: What if the Ghost is
deserted? I listened more closely. There was no sound. I
cautiously descended the ladder. The place had the empty and musty feel
and smell usual to a dwelling no longer inhabited. Everywhere was
a thick litter of discarded and ragged garments, old sea-boots,
leaky oilskins - all the worthless forecastle dunnage of a long voyage.
Abandoned hastily, was my conclusion, as I ascended to the deck. Hope
was alive again in my breast, and I looked about me with greater
coolness. I noted that the boats were missing. The steerage told
the same tale as the forecastle. The hunters had packed their
belongings with similar haste. The Ghost was deserted. It was
Maud's and mine. I thought of the ship's stores and the lazarette
beneath the cabin, and the idea came to me of surprising Maud with something
nice for breakfast.
The reaction from my fear, and the knowledge that the terrible deed I
had come to do was no longer necessary, made me boyish and eager. I went up
the steerage companion-way two steps at a time, with nothing distinct in my
mind except joy and the hope that Maud would sleep on until the surprise
breakfast was quite ready for her. As I rounded the galley, a new
satisfaction was mine at thought of all the splendid cooking utensils
inside. I sprang up the break of the poop, and saw - Wolf Larsen.
What of my impetus and the stunning surprise, I clattered three or four steps
along the deck before I could stop myself. He was standing in the
companion-way, only his head and shoulders visible, staring straight at
me. His arms were resting on the half-open slide. He made no
movement whatever - simply stood there, staring at me.
I began to tremble. The old stomach sickness clutched me. I
put one hand on the edge of the house to steady myself. My lips
seemed suddenly dry and I moistened them against the need of speech.
Nor did I for an instant take my eyes off him. Neither of us
spoke. There was something ominous in his silence, his immobility. All
my old fear of him returned and by new fear was increased an
hundred- fold. And still we stood, the pair of us, staring at each
I was aware of the demand for action, and, my old helplessness strong
upon me, I was waiting for him to take the initiative. Then, as the moments
went by, it came to me that the situation was analogous to the one in which I
had approached the long-maned bull, my intention of clubbing obscured by fear
until it became a desire to make him run. So it was at last impressed
upon me that I was there, not to have Wolf Larsen take the initiative, but to
take it myself.
I cocked both barrels and levelled the shot-gun at him. Had
he moved, attempted to drop down the companion-way, I know I would have
shot him. But he stood motionless and staring as before. And as I
faced him, with levelled gun shaking in my hands, I had time to note the worn
and haggard appearance of his face. It was as if some strong anxiety
had wasted it. The cheeks were sunken, and there was a wearied,
puckered expression on the brow. And it seemed to me that his eyes were
strange, not only the expression, but the physical seeming, as though the
optic nerves and supporting muscles had suffered strain and slightly twisted
All this I saw, and my brain now working rapidly, I thought a thousand
thoughts; and yet I could not pull the triggers. I lowered the gun and
stepped to the corner of the cabin, primarily to relieve the tension on my
nerves and to make a new start, and incidentally to be closer. Again I
raised the gun. He was almost at arm's length. There was no hope
for him. I was resolved. There was no possible chance of missing him,
no matter how poor my marksmanship. And yet I wrestled with myself and
could not pull the triggers.
"Well?" he demanded impatiently.
I strove vainly to force my fingers down on the triggers, and vainly I
strove to say something.
"Why don't you shoot?" he asked.
I cleared my throat of a huskiness which prevented speech.
"Hump," he said slowly, "you can't do it. You are not exactly
afraid. You are impotent. Your conventional morality is stronger
than you. You are the slave to the opinions which have credence among
the people you have known and have read about. Their code has
been drummed into your head from the time you lisped, and in spite of your
philosophy, and of what I have taught you, it won't let you kill an unarmed,
"I know it," I said hoarsely.
"And you know that I would kill an unarmed man as readily as I would
smoke a cigar," he went on. "You know me for what I am, - my worth in
the world by your standard. You have called me snake, tiger, shark,
monster, and Caliban. And yet, you little rag puppet, you little
echoing mechanism, you are unable to kill me as you would a snake or a shark,
because I have hands, feet, and a body shaped somewhat like yours. Bah!
I had hoped better things of you, Hump."
He stepped out of the companion-way and came up to me.
"Put down that gun. I want to ask you some questions. I
haven't had a chance to look around yet. What place is this? How
is the Ghost lying? How did you get wet? Where's Maud? - I beg
your pardon, Miss Brewster - or should I say, 'Mrs. Van Weyden'?"
I had backed away from him, almost weeping at my inability to shoot him,
but not fool enough to put down the gun. I hoped, desperately, that he
might commit some hostile act, attempt to strike me or choke me; for in such
way only I knew I could be stirred to shoot.
"This is Endeavour Island," I said.
"Never heard of it," he broke in.
"At least, that's our name for it," I amended.
"Our?" he queried. "Who's our?"
"Miss Brewster and myself. And the Ghost is lying, as you can
see for yourself, bow on to the beach."
"There are seals here," he said. "They woke me up with
their barking, or I'd be sleeping yet. I heard them when I drove in
last night. They were the first warning that I was on a lee
shore. It's a rookery, the kind of a thing I've hunted for years.
Thanks to my brother Death, I've lighted on a fortune. It's a
mint. What's its bearings?"
"Haven't the least idea," I said. "But you ought to know
quite closely. What were your last observations?"
He smiled inscrutably, but did not answer.
"Well, where's all hands?" I asked. "How does it come that you
I was prepared for him again to set aside my question, and was surprised
at the readiness of his reply.
"My brother got me inside forty-eight hours, and through no fault of
mine. Boarded me in the night with only the watch on deck. Hunters went
back on me. He gave them a bigger lay. Heard him offering
it. Did it right before me. Of course the crew gave me the
go-by. That was to be expected. All hands went over the side, and
there I was, marooned on my own vessel. It was Death's turn, and it's
all in the family anyway."
"But how did you lose the masts?" I asked.
"Walk over and examine those lanyards," he said, pointing to where the
mizzen-rigging should have been.
"They have been cut with a knife!" I exclaimed.
"Not quite," he laughed. "It was a neater job. Look
I looked. The lanyards had been almost severed, with just
enough left to hold the shrouds till some severe strain should be put
"Cooky did that," he laughed again. "I know, though I didn't
spot him at it. Kind of evened up the score a bit."
"Good for Mugridge!" I cried.
"Yes, that's what I thought when everything went over the side. Only I
said it on the other side of my mouth."
"But what were you doing while all this was going on?" I asked.
"My best, you may be sure, which wasn't much under
I turned to re-examine Thomas Mugridge's work.
"I guess I'll sit down and take the sunshine," I heard Wolf
There was a hint, just a slight hint, of physical feebleness in
his voice, and it was so strange that I looked quickly at him.
His hand was sweeping nervously across his face, as though he
were brushing away cobwebs. I was puzzled. The whole thing was
so unlike the Wolf Larsen I had known.
"How are your headaches?" I asked.
"They still trouble me," was his answer. "I think I have
one coming on now."
He slipped down from his sitting posture till he lay on the deck. Then
he rolled over on his side, his head resting on the biceps of the under arm,
the forearm shielding his eyes from the sun. I stood regarding him
"Now's your chance, Hump," he said.
"I don't understand," I lied, for I thoroughly understood.
"Oh, nothing," he added softly, as if he were drowsing; "only you've got
me where you want me."
"No, I haven't," I retorted; "for I want you a few thousand miles away
He chuckled, and thereafter spoke no more. He did not stir as
I passed by him and went down into the cabin. I lifted the trap
in the floor, but for some moments gazed dubiously into the darkness of
the lazarette beneath. I hesitated to descend. What if his lying
down were a ruse? Pretty, indeed, to be caught there like a rat.
I crept softly up the companion-way and peeped at him. He was lying as
I had left him. Again I went below; but before I dropped into the
lazarette I took the precaution of casting down the door in advance. At
least there would be no lid to the trap. But it was all needless. I
regained the cabin with a store of jams, sea-biscuits, canned meats, and such
things, - all I could carry, - and replaced the trap-door.
A peep at Wolf Larsen showed me that he had not moved. A
bright thought struck me. I stole into his state-room and
possessed myself of his revolvers. There were no other weapons, though
I thoroughly ransacked the three remaining state-rooms. To
make sure, I returned and went through the steerage and forecastle, and in
the galley gathered up all the sharp meat and vegetable knives. Then I
bethought me of the great yachtsman's knife he always carried, and I came to
him and spoke to him, first softly, then loudly. He did not move.
I bent over and took it from his pocket. I breathed more freely. He had
no arms with which to attack me from a distance; while I, armed, could always
forestall him should he attempt to grapple me with his terrible gorilla
Filling a coffee-pot and frying-pan with part of my plunder, and taking
some chinaware from the cabin pantry, I left Wolf Larsen lying in the sun and
Maud was still asleep. I blew up the embers (we had not
yet arranged a winter kitchen), and quite feverishly cooked
the breakfast. Toward the end, I heard her moving about within
the hut, making her toilet. Just as all was ready and the
coffee poured, the door opened and she came forth.
"It's not fair of you," was her greeting. "You are usurping one
of my prerogatives. You know you I agreed that the cooking should
be mine, and - "
"But just this once," I pleaded.
"If you promise not to do it again," she smiled. "Unless,
of course, you have grown tired of my poor efforts."
To my delight she never once looked toward the beach, and I maintained
the banter with such success all unconsciously she sipped coffee from the
china cup, ate fried evaporated potatoes, and spread marmalade on her
biscuit. But it could not last. I saw the surprise that came over
her. She had discovered the china plate from which she was
eating. She looked over the breakfast, noting detail after
detail. Then she looked at me, and her face turned slowly toward the
"Humphrey!" she said.
The old unnamable terror mounted into her eyes.
"Is - he?" she quavered.
I nodded my head.
We waited all day for Wolf Larsen to come ashore. It was
an intolerable period of anxiety. Each moment one or the other of
us cast expectant glances toward the Ghost. But he did not come.
He did not even appear on deck.
"Perhaps it is his headache," I said. "I left him lying on
the poop. He may lie there all night. I think I'll go and
Maud looked entreaty at me.
"It is all right," I assured her. "I shall take the revolvers. You
know I collected every weapon on board."
"But there are his arms, his hands, his terrible, terrible hands!" she
objected. And then she cried, "Oh, Humphrey, I am afraid of him!
Don't go - please don't go!"
She rested her hand appealingly on mine, and sent my
pulse fluttering. My heart was surely in my eyes for a moment.
The dear and lovely woman! And she was so much the woman, clinging
and appealing, sunshine and dew to my manhood, rooting it deeper
and sending through it the sap of a new strength. I was for putting
my arm around her, as when in the midst of the seal herd; but
I considered, and refrained.
"I shall not take any risks," I said. "I'll merely peep over
the bow and see."
She pressed my hand earnestly and let me go. But the space on
deck where I had left him lying was vacant. He had evidently
gone below. That night we stood alternate watches, one of us
sleeping at a time; for there was no telling what Wolf Larsen might do.
He was certainly capable of anything.
The next day we waited, and the next, and still he made no sign.
"These headaches of his, these attacks," Maud said, on the afternoon of
the fourth day; "Perhaps he is ill, very ill. He may be dead."
"Or dying," was her afterthought when she had waited some time for me to
"Better so," I answered.
"But think, Humphrey, a fellow-creature in his last lonely hour."
"Perhaps," I suggested.
"Yes, even perhaps," she acknowledged. "But we do not know.
It would be terrible if he were. I could never forgive myself.
We must do something."
"Perhaps," I suggested again.
I waited, smiling inwardly at the woman of her which compelled
a solicitude for Wolf Larsen, of all creatures. Where was
her solicitude for me, I thought, - for me whom she had been afraid
to have merely peep aboard?
She was too subtle not to follow the trend of my silence. And
she was as direct as she was subtle.
"You must go aboard, Humphrey, and find out," she said. "And
if you want to laugh at me, you have my consent and forgiveness."
I arose obediently and went down the beach.
"Do be careful," she called after me.
I waved my arm from the forecastle head and dropped down to
the deck. Aft I walked to the cabin companion, where I
contented myself with hailing below. Wolf Larsen answered, and as he
started to ascend the stairs I cocked my revolver. I displayed it
openly during our conversation, but he took no notice of it. He
appeared the same, physically, as when last I saw him, but he was gloomy
and silent. In fact, the few words we spoke could hardly be called
a conversation. I did not inquire why he had not been ashore,
nor did he ask why I had not come aboard. His head was all
right again, he said, and so, without further parley, I left him.
Maud received my report with obvious relief, and the sight of
smoke which later rose in the galley put her in a more cheerful mood. The
next day, and the next, we saw the galley smoke rising, and sometimes we
caught glimpses of him on the poop. But that was all. He made no
attempt to come ashore. This we knew, for we still maintained our
night-watches. We were waiting for him to do something, to show his
hand, so to say, and his inaction puzzled and worried us.
A week of this passed by. We had no other interest than
Wolf Larsen, and his presence weighed us down with an apprehension
which prevented us from doing any of the little things we had planned.
But at the end of the week the smoke ceased rising from the galley, and
he no longer showed himself on the poop. I could see Maud's solicitude
again growing, though she timidly - and even proudly, I think - forbore a
repetition of her request. After all, what censure could be put upon
her? She was divinely altruistic, and she was a woman. Besides, I
was myself aware of hurt at thought of this man whom I had tried to kill,
dying alone with his fellow- creatures so near. He was right. The
code of my group was stronger than I. The fact that he had hands, feet,
and a body shaped somewhat like mine, constituted a claim which I could
So I did not wait a second time for Maud to send me. I
discovered that we stood in need of condensed milk and marmalade,
and announced that I was going aboard. I could see that she
wavered. She even went so far as to murmur that they were non-essentials
and that my trip after them might be inexpedient. And as she
had followed the trend of my silence, she now followed the trend of
my speech, and she knew that I was going aboard, not because of condensed
milk and marmalade, but because of her and of her anxiety, which she knew she
had failed to hide.
I took off my shoes when I gained the forecastle head, and
went noiselessly aft in my stocking feet. Nor did I call this time
from the top of the companion-way. Cautiously descending, I found
the cabin deserted. The door to his state-room was closed. At
first I thought of knocking, then I remembered my ostensible errand
and resolved to carry it out. Carefully avoiding noise, I lifted
the trap-door in the floor and set it to one side. The slop-chest,
as well as the provisions, was stored in the lazarette, and I
took advantage of the opportunity to lay in a stock of underclothing.
As I emerged from the lazarette I heard sounds in Wolf
Larsen's state-room. I crouched and listened. The door-knob
rattled. Furtively, instinctively, I slunk back behind the table and
drew and cocked my revolver. The door swung open and he came
forth. Never had I seen so profound a despair as that which I saw on
his face, - the face of Wolf Larsen the fighter, the strong man,
the indomitable one. For all the world like a woman wringing
her hands, he raised his clenched fists and groaned. One
fist unclosed, and the open palm swept across his eyes as though brushing
"God! God!" he groaned, and the clenched fists were raised
again to the infinite despair with which his throat vibrated.
It was horrible. I was trembling all over, and I could feel
the shivers running up and down my spine and the sweat standing out on my
forehead. Surely there can be little in this world more awful than the
spectacle of a strong man in the moment when he is utterly weak and
But Wolf Larsen regained control of himself by an exertion of
his remarkable will. And it was exertion. His whole frame shook
with the struggle. He resembled a man on the verge of a fit. His
face strove to compose itself, writhing and twisting in the effort till he
broke down again. Once more the clenched fists went upward and he
groaned. He caught his breath once or twice and sobbed. Then he
was successful. I could have thought him the old Wolf Larsen, and yet
there was in his movements a vague suggestion of weakness and
indecision. He started for the companion-way, and stepped forward quite
as I had been accustomed to see him do; and yet again, in his very walk,
there seemed that suggestion of weakness and indecision.
I was now concerned with fear for myself. The open trap
lay directly in his path, and his discovery of it would lead instantly to
his discovery of me. I was angry with myself for being caught in so
cowardly a position, crouching on the floor. There was yet time.
I rose swiftly to my feet, and, I know, quite unconsciously assumed a defiant
attitude. He took no notice of me. Nor did he notice the open
trap. Before I could grasp the situation, or act, he had walked right
into the trap. One foot was descending into the opening, while the
other foot was just on the verge of beginning the uplift. But when the
descending foot missed the solid flooring and felt vacancy beneath, it was
the old Wolf Larsen and the tiger muscles that made the falling body spring
across the opening, even as it fell, so that he struck on his chest
and stomach, with arms outstretched, on the floor of the opposite
side. The next instant he had drawn up his legs and rolled clear. But
he rolled into my marmalade and underclothes and against the
The expression on his face was one of complete comprehension.
But before I could guess what he had comprehended, he had dropped
the trap-door into place, closing the lazarette. Then I
understood. He thought he had me inside. Also, he was blind, blind as a
bat. I watched him, breathing carefully so that he should not hear me. He
stepped quickly to his state-room. I saw his hand miss the door-knob by
an inch, quickly fumble for it, and find it. This was my chance.
I tiptoed across the cabin and to the top of the stairs. He came back,
dragging a heavy sea-chest, which he deposited on top of the trap. Not
content with this he fetched a second chest and placed it on top of the
first. Then he gathered up the marmalade and underclothes and put them
on the table. When he started up the companion-way, I retreated,
silently rolling over on top of the cabin.
He shoved the slide part way back and rested his arms on it, his body
still in the companion-way. His attitude was of one looking forward the
length of the schooner, or staring, rather, for his eyes were fixed and
unblinking. I was only five feet away and directly in what should have
been his line of vision. It was uncanny. I felt myself a ghost,
what of my invisibility. I waved my hand back and forth, of course
without effect; but when the moving shadow fell across his face I saw at once
that he was susceptible to the impression. His face became more
expectant and tense as he tried to analyze and identify the impression.
He knew that he had responded to something from without, that
his sensibility had been touched by a changing something in
his environment; but what it was he could not discover. I
ceased waving my hand, so that the shadow remained stationary. He
slowly moved his head back and forth under it and turned from side
to side, now in the sunshine, now in the shade, feeling the shadow, as it
were, testing it by sensation.
I, too, was busy, trying to reason out how he was aware of the existence
of so intangible a thing as a shadow. If it were his eyeballs only that
were affected, or if his optic nerve were not wholly destroyed, the
explanation was simple. If otherwise, then the only conclusion I could
reach was that the sensitive skin recognized the difference of temperature
between shade and sunshine. Or, perhaps, - who can tell? - it was that
fabled sixth sense which conveyed to him the loom and feel of an object close
Giving over his attempt to determine the shadow, he stepped on deck and
started forward, walking with a swiftness and confidence which surprised
me. And still there was that hint of the feebleness of the blind in his
walk. I knew it now for what it was.
To my amused chagrin, he discovered my shoes on the forecastle head and
brought them back with him into the galley. I watched him build the
fire and set about cooking food for himself; then I stole into the cabin for
my marmalade and underclothes, slipped back past the galley, and climbed down
to the beach to deliver my barefoot report.
"It's too bad the Ghost has lost her masts. Why we could sail
away in her. Don't you think we could, Humphrey?"
I sprang excitedly to my feet.
"I wonder, I wonder," I repeated, pacing up and down.
Maud's eyes were shining with anticipation as they followed me. She had
such faith in me! And the thought of it was so much added power.
I remembered Michelet's "To man, woman is as the earth was to her legendary
son; he has but to fall down and kiss her breast and he is strong
again." For the first time I knew the wonderful truth of his
words. Why, I was living them. Maud was all this to me, an
unfailing, source of strength and courage. I had but to look at her, or
think of her, and be strong again.
"It can be done, it can be done," I was thinking and
asserting aloud. "What men have done, I can do; and if they have never
done this before, still I can do it."
"What? for goodness' sake," Maud demanded. "Do be merciful.
What is it you can do?"
"We can do it," I amended. "Why, nothing else than put the
masts back into the Ghost and sail away."
"Humphrey!" she exclaimed.
And I felt as proud of my conception as if it were already a
"But how is it possible to be done?" she asked.
"I don't know," was my answer. "I know only that I am capable
of doing anything these days."
I smiled proudly at her - too proudly, for she dropped her eyes and was
for the moment silent.
"But there is Captain Larsen," she objected.
"Blind and helpless," I answered promptly, waving him aside as
"But those terrible hands of his! You know how he leaped
across the opening of the lazarette."
"And you know also how I crept about and avoided him," I
"And lost your shoes."
"You'd hardly expect them to avoid Wolf Larsen without my feet inside of
We both laughed, and then went seriously to work constructing the plan
whereby we were to step the masts of the Ghost and return to the world.
I remembered hazily the physics of my school days, while the last few months
had given me practical experience with mechanical purchases. I must
say, though, when we walked down to the Ghost to inspect more closely the
task before us, that the sight of the great masts lying in the water almost
disheartened me. Where were we to begin? If there had been one mast
standing, something high up to which to fasten blocks and tackles! But
there was nothing. It reminded me of the problem of lifting oneself
by one's boot-straps. I understood the mechanics of levers; but
where was I to get a fulcrum?
There was the mainmast, fifteen inches in diameter at what was now the
butt, still sixty-five feet in length, and weighing, I roughly calculated, at
least three thousand pounds. And then came the foremast, larger in
diameter, and weighing surely thirty-five hundred pounds. Where was I
to begin? Maud stood silently by my side, while I evolved in my mind
the contrivance known among sailors as "shears." But, though known to
sailors, I invented it there on Endeavour Island. By crossing and
lashing the ends of two spars, and then elevating them in the air like an
inverted "V," I could get a point above the deck to which to make fast my
hoisting tackle. To this hoisting tackle I could, if necessary, attach
a second hoisting tackle. And then there was the windlass!
Maud saw that I had achieved a solution, and her eyes
"What are you going to do?" she asked.
"Clear that raffle," I answered, pointing to the tangled
Ah, the decisiveness, the very sound of the words, was good in
my ears. "Clear that raffle!" Imagine so salty a phrase on the
lips of the Humphrey Van Weyden of a few months gone!
There must have been a touch of the melodramatic in my pose and voice,
for Maud smiled. Her appreciation of the ridiculous was keen, and in
all things she unerringly saw and felt, where it existed, the touch of sham,
the overshading, the overtone. It was this which had given poise and
penetration to her own work and made her of worth to the world. The
serious critic, with the sense of humour and the power of expression, must
inevitably command the world's ear. And so it was that she had
commanded. Her sense of humour was really the artist's instinct for
"I'm sure I've heard it before, somewhere, in books," she
I had an instinct for proportion myself, and I collapsed
forthwith, descending from the dominant pose of a master of matter to a
state of humble confusion which was, to say the least, very miserable.
Her hand leapt out at once to mine.
"I'm so sorry," she said.
"No need to be," I gulped. "It does me good. There's too much
of the schoolboy in me. All of which is neither here nor there.
What we've got to do is actually and literally to clear that raffle.
If you'll come with me in the boat, we'll get to work and
straighten things out."
"'When the topmen clear the raffle with their clasp-knives in
their teeth,'" she quoted at me; and for the rest of the afternoon we made
merry over our labour.
Her task was to hold the boat in position while I worked at
the tangle. And such a tangle - halyards, sheets, guys,
down-hauls, shrouds, stays, all washed about and back and forth and
through, and twined and knotted by the sea. I cut no more than
was necessary, and what with passing the long ropes under and around the
booms and masts, of unreeving the halyards and sheets, of coiling down in the
boat and uncoiling in order to pass through another knot in the bight, I was
soon wet to the skin.
The sails did require some cutting, and the canvas, heavy with water,
tried my strength severely; but I succeeded before nightfall in getting it
all spread out on the beach to dry. We were both very tired when we
knocked off for supper, and we had done good work, too, though to the eye it
Next morning, with Maud as able assistant, I went into the hold of the
Ghost to clear the steps of the mast-butts. We had no more than begun
work when the sound of my knocking and hammering brought Wolf Larsen.
"Hello below!" he cried down the open hatch.
The sound of his voice made Maud quickly draw close to me, as
for protection, and she rested one hand on my arm while we parleyed.
"Hello on deck," I replied. "Good-morning to you."
"What are you doing down there?" he demanded. "Trying to
scuttle my ship for me?"
"Quite the opposite; I'm repairing her," was my answer.
"But what in thunder are you repairing?" There was puzzlement
in his voice.
"Why, I'm getting everything ready for re-stepping the masts," I replied
easily, as though it were the simplest project imaginable.
"It seems as though you're standing on your own legs at last, Hump," we
heard him say; and then for some time he was silent.
"But I say, Hump," he called down. "You can't do it."
"Oh, yes, I can," I retorted. "I'm doing it now."
"But this is my vessel, my particular property. What if I
"You forget," I replied. "You are no longer the biggest bit of
the ferment. You were, once, and able to eat me, as you were
pleased to phrase it; but there has been a diminishing, and I am now
able to eat you. The yeast has grown stale."
He gave a short, disagreeable laugh. "I see you're working
my philosophy back on me for all it is worth. But don't make
the mistake of under-estimating me. For your own good I warn
"Since when have you become a philanthropist?" I queried. "Confess, now,
in warning me for my own good, that you are very consistent."
He ignored my sarcasm, saying, "Suppose I clap the hatch on, now? You
won't fool me as you did in the lazarette."
"Wolf Larsen," I said sternly, for the first time addressing him by this
his most familiar name, "I am unable to shoot a helpless, unresisting
man. You have proved that to my satisfaction as well as yours.
But I warn you now, and not so much for your own good as for mine, that I
shall shoot you the moment you attempt a hostile act. I can shoot you
now, as I stand here; and if you are so minded, just go ahead and try to clap
on the hatch."
"Nevertheless, I forbid you, I distinctly forbid your tampering with my
"But, man!" I expostulated, "you advance the fact that it is your ship
as though it were a moral right. You have never considered moral rights
in your dealings with others. You surely do not dream that I'll
consider them in dealing with you?"
I had stepped underneath the open hatchway so that I could see him. The
lack of expression on his face, so different from when I had watched him
unseen, was enhanced by the unblinking, staring eyes. It was not a pleasant
face to look upon.
"And none so poor, not even Hump, to do him reverence," he sneered.
The sneer was wholly in his voice. His face
remained expressionless as ever.
"How do you do, Miss Brewster," he said suddenly, after a pause.
I started. She had made no noise whatever, had not even
moved. Could it be that some glimmer of vision remained to him? or
that his vision was coming back?
"How do you do, Captain Larsen," she answered. "Pray, how did
you know I was here?"
"Heard you breathing, of course. I say, Hump's improving,
don't you think so?"
"I don't know," she answered, smiling at me. "I have never
seen him otherwise."
"You should have seen him before, then."
"Wolf Larsen, in large doses," I murmured, "before and
"I want to tell you again, Hump," he said threateningly, "that you'd
better leave things alone."
"But don't you care to escape as well as we?" I
"No," was his answer. "I intend dying here."
"Well, we don't," I concluded defiantly, beginning again my knocking and
Next day, the mast-steps clear and everything in readiness, we started
to get the two topmasts aboard. The maintopmast was over thirty feet in
length, the foretopmast nearly thirty, and it was of these that I intended
making the shears. It was puzzling work. Fastening one end of a heavy
tackle to the windlass, and with the other end fast to the butt of the
foretopmast, I began to heave. Maud held the turn on the windlass and coiled
down the slack.
We were astonished at the ease with which the spar was lifted.
It was an improved crank windlass, and the purchase it gave
was enormous. Of course, what it gave us in power we paid for
in distance; as many times as it doubled my strength, that many times was
doubled the length of rope I heaved in. The tackle dragged heavily
across the rail, increasing its drag as the spar arose more and more out of
the water, and the exertion on the windlass grew severe.
But when the butt of the topmast was level with the rail, everything
came to a standstill.
"I might have known it," I said impatiently. "Now we have to do
it all over again."
"Why not fasten the tackle part way down the mast?" Maud suggested.
"It's what I should have done at first," I answered, hugely disgusted
Slipping off a turn, I lowered the mast back into the water and fastened
the tackle a third of the way down from the butt. In an hour, what of
this and of rests between the heaving, I had hoisted it to the point where I
could hoist no more. Eight feet of the butt was above the rail, and I
was as far away as ever from getting the spar on board. I sat down and
pondered the problem. It did not take long. I sprang jubilantly
to my feet.
"Now I have it!" I cried. "I ought to make the tackle fast at
the point of balance. And what we learn of this will serve us
with everything else we have to hoist aboard."
Once again I undid all my work by lowering the mast into the water. But
I miscalculated the point of balance, so that when I heaved the top of the
mast came up instead of the butt. Maud looked despair, but I laughed
and said it would do just as well.
Instructing her how to hold the turn and be ready to slack away
at command, I laid hold of the mast with my hands and tried to balance it
inboard across the rail. When I thought I had it I cried to her to
slack away; but the spar righted, despite my efforts, and dropped back toward
the water. Again I heaved it up to its old position, for I had now
another idea. I remembered the watch- tackle - a small double and
single block affair - and fetched it.
While I was rigging it between the top of the spar and the
opposite rail, Wolf Larsen came on the scene. We exchanged nothing
more than good-mornings, and, though he could not see, he sat on the rail
out of the way and followed by the sound all that I did.
Again instructing Maud to slack away at the windlass when I gave the
word, I proceeded to heave on the watch-tackle. Slowly the mast swung
in until it balanced at right angles across the rail; and then I discovered
to my amazement that there was no need for Maud to slack away. In fact,
the very opposite was necessary. Making the watch-tackle fast, I hove on the
windlass and brought in the mast, inch by inch, till its top tilted down to
the deck and finally its whole length lay on the deck.
I looked at my watch. It was twelve o'clock. My back was
aching sorely, and I felt extremely tired and hungry. And there on
the deck was a single stick of timber to show for a whole
morning's work. For the first time I thoroughly realized the extent of
the task before us. But I was learning, I was learning. The
afternoon would show far more accomplished. And it did; for we returned
at one o'clock, rested and strengthened by a hearty dinner.
In less than an hour I had the maintopmast on deck and was constructing
the shears. Lashing the two topmasts together, and making allowance for
their unequal length, at the point of intersection I attached the double
block of the main throat- halyards. This, with the single block and the
throat-halyards themselves, gave me a hoisting tackle. To prevent the
butts of the masts from slipping on the deck, I nailed down thick
cleats. Everything in readiness, I made a line fast to the apex of
the shears and carried it directly to the windlass. I was growing
to have faith in that windlass, for it gave me power beyond
all expectation. As usual, Maud held the turn while I heaved.
The shears rose in the air.
Then I discovered I had forgotten guy-ropes. This necessitated
my climbing the shears, which I did twice, before I finished guying
it fore and aft and to either side. Twilight had set in by the
time this was accomplished. Wolf Larsen, who had sat about and
listened all afternoon and never opened his mouth, had taken himself off
to the galley and started his supper. I felt quite stiff across
the small of the back, so much so that I straightened up with an
effort and with pain. I looked proudly at my work. It was
beginning to show. I was wild with desire, like a child with a new toy,
to hoist something with my shears.
"I wish it weren't so late," I said. "I'd like to see how
"Don't be a glutton, Humphrey," Maud chided me. "Remember,
to- morrow is coming, and you're so tired now that you can
"And you?" I said, with sudden solicitude. "You must be
very tired. You have worked hard and nobly. I am proud of you,
"Not half so proud as I am of you, nor with half the reason,"
she answered, looking me straight in the eyes for a moment with
an expression in her own and a dancing, tremulous light which I had not
seen before and which gave me a pang of quick delight, I know not why, for I
did not understand it. Then she dropped her eyes, to lift them again,
"If our friends could see us now," she said. "Look at us.
Have you ever paused for a moment to consider our appearance?"
"Yes, I have considered yours, frequently," I answered, puzzling over
what I had seen in her eyes and puzzled by her sudden change of
"Mercy!" she cried. "And what do I look like, pray?"
"A scarecrow, I'm afraid," I replied. "Just glance at
your draggled skirts, for instance. Look at those three-cornered
tears. And such a waist! It would not require a Sherlock Holmes to
deduce that you have been cooking over a camp-fire, to say nothing
of trying out seal-blubber. And to cap it all, that cap! And
all that is the woman who wrote 'A Kiss Endured.'"
She made me an elaborate and stately courtesy, and said, "As for you,
sir - "
And yet, through the five minutes of banter which followed, there was a
serious something underneath the fun which I could not but relate to the
strange and fleeting expression I had caught in her eyes. What was
it? Could it be that our eyes were speaking beyond the will of our
speech? My eyes had spoken, I knew, until I had found the culprits out
and silenced them. This had occurred several times. But had she
seen the clamour in them and understood? And had her eyes so spoken to
me? What else could that expression have meant - that dancing,
tremulous light, and a something more which words could not describe.
And yet it could not be. It was impossible. Besides, I was not
skilled in the speech of eyes. I was only Humphrey Van Weyden, a
bookish fellow who loved. And to love, and to wait and win love, that
surely was glorious enough for me. And thus I thought, even as we
chaffed each other's appearance, until we arrived ashore and there
were other things to think about.
"It's a shame, after working hard all day, that we cannot have
an uninterrupted night's sleep," I complained, after supper.
"But there can be no danger now? from a blind man?" she queried.
"I shall never be able to trust him," I averred, "and far less now that
he is blind. The liability is that his part helplessness will make him
more malignant than ever. I know what I shall do to- morrow, the first
thing - run out a light anchor and kedge the schooner off the beach.
And each night when we come ashore in the boat, Mr. Wolf Larsen will be left
a prisoner on board. So this will be the last night we have to stand
watch, and because of that it will go the easier."
We were awake early and just finishing breakfast as daylight came.
"Oh, Humphrey!" I heard Maud cry in dismay and suddenly stop.
I looked at her. She was gazing at the Ghost. I followed
her gaze, but could see nothing unusual. She looked at me, and
I looked inquiry back.
"The shears," she said, and her voice trembled.
I had forgotten their existence. I looked again, but could not
"If he has - " I muttered savagely.
She put her hand sympathetically on mine, and said, "You will have to
begin over again."
"Oh, believe me, my anger means nothing; I could not hurt a fly,"
I smiled back bitterly. "And the worst of it is, he knows it.
You are right. If he has destroyed the shears, I shall do
nothing except begin over again."
"But I'll stand my watch on board hereafter," I blurted out a moment
later. "And if he interferes - "
"But I dare not stay ashore all night alone," Maud was saying when I
came back to myself. "It would be so much nicer if he would be friendly
with us and help us. We could all live comfortably aboard."
"We will," I asserted, still savagely, for the destruction of my beloved
shears had hit me hard. "That is, you and I will live aboard, friendly
or not with Wolf Larsen."
"It's childish," I laughed later, "for him to do such things, and for me
to grow angry over them, for that matter."
But my heart smote me when we climbed aboard and looked at the havoc he
had done. The shears were gone altogether. The guys had been
slashed right and left. The throat-halyards which I had rigged were cut
across through every part. And he knew I could not splice. A
thought struck me. I ran to the windlass. It would
not work. He had broken it. We looked at each other in
consternation. Then I ran to the side. The masts, booms, and gaffs I
had cleared were gone. He had found the lines which held them, and cast
Tears were in Maud's eyes, and I do believe they were for me.
I could have wept myself. Where now was our project of remasting
the Ghost? He had done his work well. I sat down on the
hatch-combing and rested my chin on my hands in black despair.
"He deserves to die," I cried out; "and God forgive me, I am not man
enough to be his executioner."
But Maud was by my side, passing her hand soothingly through my hair as
though I were a child, and saying, "There, there; it will all come
right. We are in the right, and it must come right."
I remembered Michelet and leaned my head against her; and truly I became
strong again. The blessed woman was an unfailing fount of power to
me. What did it matter? Only a set-back, a delay. The tide
could not have carried the masts far to seaward, and there had been no
wind. It meant merely more work to find them and tow them back.
And besides, it was a lesson. I knew what to expect. He might
have waited and destroyed our work more effectually when we had more
"Here he comes now," she whispered.
I glanced up. He was strolling leisurely along the poop on
the port side.
"Take no notice of him," I whispered. "He's coming to see how
we take it. Don't let him know that we know. We can deny him
that satisfaction. Take off your shoes - that's right - and carry
them in your hand."
And then we played hide-and-seek with the blind man. As he came
up the port side we slipped past on the starboard; and from the poop we
watched him turn and start aft on our track.
He must have known, somehow, that we were on board, for he
said "Good-morning" very confidently, and waited, for the greeting to
be returned. Then he strolled aft, and we slipped forward.
"Oh, I know you're aboard," he called out, and I could see him listen
intently after he had spoken.
It reminded me of the great hoot-owl, listening, after its booming cry,
for the stir of its frightened prey. But we did not stir, and we moved
only when he moved. And so we dodged about the deck, hand in hand, like
a couple of children chased by a wicked ogre, till Wolf Larsen, evidently in
disgust, left the deck for the cabin. There was glee in our eyes, and
suppressed titters in our mouths, as we put on our shoes and clambered over
the side into the boat. And as I looked into Maud's clear brown eyes I forgot
the evil he had done, and I knew only that I loved her, and that because of
her the strength was mine to win our way back to the world.
For two days Maud and I ranged the sea and explored the beaches
in search of the missing masts. But it was not till the third
day that we found them, all of them, the shears included, and, of
all perilous places, in the pounding surf of the grim
south-western promontory. And how we worked! At the dark end of
the first day we returned, exhausted, to our little cove, towing the
mainmast behind us. And we had been compelled to row, in a dead
calm, practically every inch of the way.
Another day of heart-breaking and dangerous toil saw us in camp with the
two topmasts to the good. The day following I was desperate, and I
rafted together the foremast, the fore and main booms, and the fore and main
gaffs. The wind was favourable, and I had thought to tow them back
under sail, but the wind baffled, then died away, and our progress with the
oars was a snail's pace. And it was such dispiriting effort. To
throw one's whole strength and weight on the oars and to feel the boat
checked in its forward lunge by the heavy drag behind, was not exactly
Night began to fall, and to make matters worse, the wind sprang
up ahead. Not only did all forward motion cease, but we began
to drift back and out to sea. I struggled at the oars till I
was played out. Poor Maud, whom I could never prevent from working
to the limit of her strength, lay weakly back in the stern-sheets.
I could row no more. My bruised and swollen hands could no
longer close on the oar handles. My wrists and arms ached
intolerably, and though I had eaten heartily of a twelve-o'clock lunch, I
had worked so hard that I was faint from hunger.
I pulled in the oars and bent forward to the line which held
the tow. But Maud's hand leaped out restrainingly to mine.
"What are you going to do?" she asked in a strained, tense voice.
"Cast it off," I answered, slipping a turn of the rope.
But her fingers closed on mine.
"Please don't," she begged.
"It is useless," I answered. "Here is night and the wind
blowing us off the land."
"But think, Humphrey. If we cannot sail away on the Ghost, we
may remain for years on the island - for life even. If it has
never been discovered all these years, it may never be discovered."
"You forget the boat we found on the beach," I reminded her.
"It was a seal-hunting boat," she replied, "and you know perfectly well
that if the men had escaped they would have been back to make their fortunes
from the rookery. You know they never escaped."
I remained silent, undecided.
"Besides," she added haltingly, "it's your idea, and I want to see you
Now I could harden my heart. As soon as she put it on a
flattering personal basis, generosity compelled me to deny her.
"Better years on the island than to die to-night, or to-morrow, or the
next day, in the open boat. We are not prepared to brave the sea.
We have no food, no water, no blankets, nothing. Why, you'd not survive
the night without blankets: I know how strong you are. You are
"It is only nervousness," she answered. "I am afraid you will
cast off the masts in spite of me."
"Oh, please, please, Humphrey, don't!" she burst out, a
And so it ended, with the phrase she knew had all power over me. We
shivered miserably throughout the night. Now and again I fitfully
slept, but the pain of the cold always aroused me. How Maud could stand
it was beyond me. I was too tired to thrash my arms about and warm
myself, but I found strength time and again to chafe her hands and feet to
restore the circulation. And still she pleaded with me not to cast off
the masts. About three in the morning she was caught by a cold cramp,
and after I had rubbed her out of that she became quite numb. I was
frightened. I got out the oars and made her row, though she was so weak
I thought she would faint at every stroke.
Morning broke, and we looked long in the growing light for
our island. At last it showed, small and black, on the horizon,
fully fifteen miles away. I scanned the sea with my glasses. Far
away in the south-west I could see a dark line on the water, which
grew even as I looked at it.
"Fair wind!" I cried in a husky voice I did not recognize as
Maud tried to reply, but could not speak. Her lips were blue
with cold, and she was hollow-eyed - but oh, how bravely her brown
eyes looked at me! How piteously brave!
Again I fell to chafing her hands and to moving her arms up and down and
about until she could thrash them herself. Then I compelled her to
stand up, and though she would have fallen had I not supported her, I forced
her to walk back and forth the several steps between the thwart and the
stern-sheets, and finally to spring up and down.
"Oh, you brave, brave woman," I said, when I saw the life coming back
into her face. "Did you know that you were brave?"
"I never used to be," she answered. "I was never brave till I
knew you. It is you who have made me brave."
"Nor I, until I knew you," I answered.
She gave me a quick look, and again I caught that dancing, tremulous
light and something more in her eyes. But it was only for the
moment. Then she smiled.
"It must have been the conditions," she said; but I knew she was wrong,
and I wondered if she likewise knew. Then the wind came, fair and
fresh, and the boat was soon labouring through a heavy sea toward the
island. At half-past three in the afternoon we passed the south-western
promontory. Not only were we hungry, but we were now suffering from
thirst. Our lips were dry and cracked, nor could we longer moisten them
with our tongues. Then the wind slowly died down. By night it was
dead calm and I was toiling once more at the oars - but weakly, most
weakly. At two in the morning the boat's bow touched the beach of our
own inner cove and I staggered out to make the painter fast. Maud could
not stand, nor had I strength to carry her. I fell in the sand with
her, and, when I had recovered, contented myself with putting my hands
under her shoulders and dragging her up the beach to the hut.
The next day we did no work. In fact, we slept till three in
the afternoon, or at least I did, for I awoke to find Maud
cooking dinner. Her power of recuperation was wonderful. There
was something tenacious about that lily-frail body of hers, a clutch
on existence which one could not reconcile with its patent weakness.
"You know I was travelling to Japan for my health," she said, as
we lingered at the fire after dinner and delighted in the movelessness of
loafing. "I was not very strong. I never was. The
doctors recommended a sea voyage, and I chose the longest."
"You little knew what you were choosing," I laughed.
"But I shall be a different women for the experience, as well as
a stronger woman," she answered; "and, I hope a better woman.
At least I shall understand a great deal more life."
Then, as the short day waned, we fell to discussing Wolf
Larsen's blindness. It was inexplicable. And that it was grave,
I instanced his statement that he intended to stay and die on Endeavour
Island. When he, strong man that he was, loving life as he did,
accepted his death, it was plain that he was troubled by something more than
mere blindness. There had been his terrific headaches, and we were
agreed that it was some sort of brain break- down, and that in his attacks he
endured pain beyond our comprehension.
I noticed as we talked over his condition, that Maud's sympathy went out
to him more and more; yet I could not but love her for it, so sweetly womanly
was it. Besides, there was no false sentiment about her feeling.
She was agreed that the most rigorous treatment was necessary if we were to
escape, though she recoiled at the suggestion that I might some time be
compelled to take his life to save my own - "our own," she put it.
In the morning we had breakfast and were at work by daylight.
I found a light kedge anchor in the fore-hold, where such things
were kept; and with a deal of exertion got it on deck and into the
boat. With a long running-line coiled down in the stem, I rowed well
out into our little cove and dropped the anchor into the water.
There was no wind, the tide was high, and the schooner floated.
Casting off the shore-lines, I kedged her out by main strength
(the windlass being broken), till she rode nearly up and down to the small
anchor - too small to hold her in any breeze. So I lowered the big
starboard anchor, giving plenty of slack; and by afternoon I was at work on
Three days I worked on that windlass. Least of all things was I
a mechanic, and in that time I accomplished what an ordinary machinist
would have done in as many hours. I had to learn my tools to begin
with, and every simple mechanical principle which such a man would have at
his finger ends I had likewise to learn. And at the end of three days I had a
windlass which worked clumsily. It never gave the satisfaction the old
windlass had given, but it worked and made my work possible.
In half a day I got the two topmasts aboard and the shears rigged and
guyed as before. And that night I slept on board and on deck beside my
work. Maud, who refused to stay alone ashore, slept in the
forecastle. Wolf Larsen had sat about, listening to my repairing the
windlass and talking with Maud and me upon indifferent subjects. No
reference was made on either side to the destruction of the shears; nor did
he say anything further about my leaving his ship alone. But still I
had feared him, blind and helpless and listening, always listening, and I
never let his strong arms get within reach of me while I worked.
On this night, sleeping under my beloved shears, I was aroused by his
footsteps on the deck. It was a starlight night, and I could see the
bulk of him dimly as he moved about. I rolled out of my blankets and
crept noiselessly after him in my stocking feet. He had armed himself
with a draw-knife from the tool-locker, and with this he prepared to cut
across the throat-halyards I had again rigged to the shears. He felt
the halyards with his hands and discovered that I had not made them
fast. This would not do for a draw-knife, so he laid hold of the
running part, hove taut, and made fast. Then he prepared to saw across
with the draw-knife.
"I wouldn't, if I were you," I said quietly.
He heard the click of my pistol and laughed.
"Hello, Hump," he said. "I knew you were here all the time.
You can't fool my ears."
"That's a lie, Wolf Larsen," I said, just as quietly as
before. "However, I am aching for a chance to kill you, so go ahead
"You have the chance always," he sneered.
"Go ahead and cut," I threatened ominously.
"I'd rather disappoint you," he laughed, and turned on his heel and went
"Something must be done, Humphrey," Maud said, next morning, when I had
told her of the night's occurrence. "If he has liberty, he may do
anything. He may sink the vessel, or set fire to it. There is no
telling what he may do. We must make him a prisoner."
"But how?" I asked, with a helpless shrug. "I dare not come
within reach of his arms, and he knows that so long as his resistance
is passive I cannot shoot him."
"There must be some way," she contended. "Let me think."
"There is one way," I said grimly.
I picked up a seal-club.
"It won't kill him," I said. "And before he could recover I'd
have him bound hard and fast."
She shook her head with a shudder. "No, not that. There must
be some less brutal way. Let us wait."
But we did not have to wait long, and the problem solved itself. In the
morning, after several trials, I found the point of balance in the foremast
and attached my hoisting tackle a few feet above it. Maud held the turn
on the windlass and coiled down while I heaved. Had the windlass been
in order it would not have been so difficult; as it was, I was compelled to
apply all my weight and strength to every inch of the heaving. I had to
rest frequently. In truth, my spells of resting were longer than those of
working. Maud even contrived, at times when all my efforts could not
budge the windlass, to hold the turn with one hand and with the other
to throw the weight of her slim body to my assistance.
At the end of an hour the single and double blocks came together at the
top of the shears. I could hoist no more. And yet the mast was
not swung entirely inboard. The butt rested against the outside of the
port rail, while the top of the mast overhung the water far beyond the
starboard rail. My shears were too short. All my work had been for
nothing. But I no longer despaired in the old way. I was
acquiring more confidence in myself and more confidence in the possibilities
of windlasses, shears, and hoisting tackles. There was a way in which
it could be done, and it remained for me to find that way.
While I was considering the problem, Wolf Larsen came on deck.
We noticed something strange about him at once. The
indecisiveness, or feebleness, of his movements was more pronounced.
His walk was actually tottery as he came down the port side of the
cabin. At the break of the poop he reeled, raised one hand to his eyes
with the familiar brushing gesture, and fell down the steps - still on his
feet - to the main deck, across which he staggered, falling and flinging out
his arms for support. He regained his balance by the steerage
companion-way and stood there dizzily for a space, when he suddenly crumpled
up and collapsed, his legs bending under him as he sank to the deck.
"One of his attacks," I whispered to Maud.
She nodded her head; and I could see sympathy warm in eyes.
We went up to him, but he seemed unconscious,
breathing spasmodically. She took charge of him, lifting his head to
keep the blood out of it and despatching me to the cabin for a pillow. I
also brought blankets, and we made him comfortable. I took
his pulse. It beat steadily and strong, and was quite normal.
This puzzled me. I became suspicious.
"What if he should be feigning this?" I asked, still holding
Maud shook her head, and there was reproof in her eyes. But
just then the wrist I held leaped from my hand, and the hand clasped like
a steel trap about my wrist. I cried aloud in awful fear, a wild
inarticulate cry; and I caught one glimpse of his face, malignant and
triumphant, as his other hand compassed my body and I was drawn down to him
in a terrible grip.
My wrist was released, but his other arm, passed around my back, held
both my arms so that I could not move. His free hand went to my throat,
and in that moment I knew the bitterest foretaste of death earned by one's
own idiocy. Why had I trusted myself within reach of those terrible
arms? I could feel other hands at my throat. They were Maud's
hands, striving vainly to tear loose the hand that was throttling me.
She gave it up, and I heard her scream in a way that cut me to the soul, for
it was a woman's scream of fear and heart-breaking despair. I had heard
it before, during the sinking of the Martinez.
My face was against his chest and I could not see, but I heard Maud turn
and run swiftly away along the deck. Everything was
happening quickly. I had not yet had a glimmering of unconsciousness,
and it seemed that an interminable period of time was lapsing before
I heard her feet flying back. And just then I felt the whole
man sink under me. The breath was leaving his lungs and his chest
was collapsing under my weight. Whether it was merely the
expelled breath, or his consciousness of his growing impotence, I know
not, but his throat vibrated with a deep groan. The hand at my
throat relaxed. I breathed. It fluttered and tightened
again. But even his tremendous will could not overcome the dissolution
that assailed it. That will of his was breaking down. He was
Maud's footsteps were very near as his hand fluttered for the last time
and my throat was released. I rolled off and over to the deck on my
back, gasping and blinking in the sunshine. Maud was pale but composed,
- my eyes had gone instantly to her face, - and she was looking at me with
mingled alarm and relief. A heavy seal-club in her hand caught my eyes,
and at that moment she followed my gaze down to it. The club dropped
from her hand as though it had suddenly stung her, and at the same moment my
heart surged with a great joy. Truly she was my woman, my mate-woman,
fighting with me and for me as the mate of a caveman would have fought, all
the primitive in her aroused, forgetful of her culture, hard under
the softening civilization of the only life she had ever known.
"Dear woman!" I cried, scrambling to my feet.
The next moment she was in my arms, weeping convulsively on my shoulder
while I clasped her close. I looked down at the brown glory of her
hair, glinting gems in the sunshine far more precious to me than those in the
treasure-chests of kings. And I bent my head and kissed her hair
softly, so softly that she did not know.
Then sober thought came to me. After all, she was only a
woman, crying her relief, now that the danger was past, in the arms of
her protector or of the one who had been endangered. Had I been
father or brother, the situation would have been in nowise
different. Besides, time and place were not meet, and I wished to earn
a better right to declare my love. So once again I softly kissed
her hair as I felt her receding from my clasp.
"It was a real attack this time," I said: "another shock like
the one that made him blind. He feigned at first, and in doing
so brought it on."
Maud was already rearranging his pillow.
"No," I said, "not yet. Now that I have him helpless, helpless
he shall remain. From this day we live in the cabin. Wolf
Larsen shall live in the steerage."
I caught him under the shoulders and dragged him to the
companion- way. At my direction Maud fetched a rope. Placing this
under his shoulders, I balanced him across the threshold and lowered him
down the steps to the floor. I could not lift him directly into a
bunk, but with Maud's help I lifted first his shoulders and head, then his
body, balanced him across the edge, and rolled him into a lower bunk.
But this was not to be all. I recollected the handcuffs in
his state-room, which he preferred to use on sailors instead of
the ancient and clumsy ship irons. So, when we left him, he
lay handcuffed hand and foot. For the first time in many days
I breathed freely. I felt strangely light as I came on deck,
as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt,
also, that Maud and I had drawn more closely together. And I wondered
if she, too, felt it, as we walked along the deck side by side to where
the stalled foremast hung in the shears.
At once we moved aboard the Ghost, occupying our old state-rooms and
cooking in the galley. The imprisonment of Wolf Larsen had happened
most opportunely, for what must have been the Indian summer of this high
latitude was gone and drizzling stormy weather had set in. We were very
comfortable, and the inadequate shears, with the foremast suspended from
them, gave a business-like air to the schooner and a promise of
And now that we had Wolf Larsen in irons, how little did we
need it! Like his first attack, his second had been accompanied
by serious disablement. Maud made the discovery in the
afternoon while trying to give him nourishment. He had shown signs
of consciousness, and she had spoken to him, eliciting no response. He was
lying on his left side at the time, and in evident pain. With a restless
movement he rolled his head around, clearing his left ear from the pillow
against which it had been pressed. At once he heard and answered her,
and at once she came to me.
Pressing the pillow against his left ear, I asked him if he heard me,
but he gave no sign. Removing the pillow and, repeating the question he
answered promptly that he did.
"Do you know you are deaf in the right ear?" I asked.
"Yes," he answered in a low, strong voice, "and worse than that. My
whole right side is affected. It seems asleep. I cannot move arm
"Feigning again?" I demanded angrily.
He shook his head, his stern mouth shaping the strangest,
twisted smile. It was indeed a twisted smile, for it was on the left
side only, the facial muscles of the right side moving not at all.
"That was the last play of the Wolf," he said. "I am paralysed.
I shall never walk again. Oh, only on the other side," he added,
as though divining the suspicious glance I flung at his left leg, the knee
of which had just then drawn up, and elevated the blankets.
"It's unfortunate," he continued. "I'd liked to have done for
you first, Hump. And I thought I had that much left in me."
"But why?" I asked; partly in horror, partly out of curiosity.
Again his stern mouth framed the twisted smile, as he said:
"Oh, just to be alive, to be living and doing, to be the biggest bit of
the ferment to the end, to eat you. But to die this way."
He shrugged his shoulders, or attempted to shrug them, rather, for the
left shoulder alone moved. Like the smile, the shrug was twisted.
"But how can you account for it?" I asked. "Where is the seat
of your trouble?"
"The brain," he said at once. "It was those cursed
headaches brought it on."
"Symptoms," I said.
He nodded his head. "There is no accounting for it. I was
never sick in my life. Something's gone wrong with my brain. A
cancer, a tumour, or something of that nature, - a thing that devours
and destroys. It's attacking my nerve-centres, eating them up, bit
by bit, cell by cell - from the pain."
"The motor-centres, too," I suggested.
"So it would seem; and the curse of it is that I must lie
here, conscious, mentally unimpaired, knowing that the lines are
going down, breaking bit by bit communication with the world. I
cannot see, hearing and feeling are leaving me, at this rate I shall
soon cease to speak; yet all the time I shall be here, alive, active, and
"When you say YOU are here, I'd suggest the likelihood of the soul," I
"Bosh!" was his retort. "It simply means that in the attack on
my brain the higher psychical centres are untouched. I can
remember, I can think and reason. When that goes, I go. I am
not. The soul?"
He broke out in mocking laughter, then turned his left ear to the pillow
as a sign that he wished no further conversation.
Maud and I went about our work oppressed by the fearful fate which had
overtaken him, - how fearful we were yet fully to realize. There was the
awfulness of retribution about it. Our thoughts were deep and solemn,
and we spoke to each other scarcely above whispers.
"You might remove the handcuffs," he said that night, as we stood in
consultation over him. "It's dead safe. I'm a paralytic now. The
next thing to watch out for is bed sores."
He smiled his twisted smile, and Maud, her eyes wide with horror, was
compelled to turn away her head.
"Do you know that your smile is crooked?" I asked him; for I knew that
she must attend him, and I wished to save her as much as possible.
"Then I shall smile no more," he said calmly. "I thought
something was wrong. My right cheek has been numb all day. Yes,
and I've had warnings of this for the last three days; by spells, my
right side seemed going to sleep, sometimes arm or hand, sometimes leg
"So my smile is crooked?" he queried a short while after.
"Well, consider henceforth that I smile internally, with my soul, if
you please, my soul. Consider that I am smiling now."
And for the space of several minutes he lay there, quiet, indulging his
The man of him was not changed. It was the old,
indomitable, terrible Wolf Larsen, imprisoned somewhere within that flesh
which had once been so invincible and splendid. Now it bound him
with insentient fetters, walling his soul in darkness and
silence, blocking it from the world which to him had been a riot of
action. No more would he conjugate the verb "to do in every mood
and tense." "To be" was all that remained to him - to be, as he
had defined death, without movement; to will, but not to execute; to think
and reason and in the spirit of him to be as alive as ever, but in the flesh
to be dead, quite dead.
And yet, though I even removed the handcuffs, we could not
adjust ourselves to his condition. Our minds revolted. To us he
was full of potentiality. We knew not what to expect of him next,
what fearful thing, rising above the flesh, he might break out and do. Our
experience warranted this state of mind, and we went about our work with
anxiety always upon us.
I had solved the problem which had arisen through the shortness of the
shears. By means of the watch-tackle (I had made a new one), I heaved
the butt of the foremast across the rail and then lowered it to the
deck. Next, by means of the shears, I hoisted the main boom on
board. Its forty feet of length would supply the height necessary
properly to swing the mast. By means of a secondary tackle I had
attached to the shears, I swung the boom to a nearly perpendicular position,
then lowered the butt to the deck, where, to prevent slipping, I spiked great
cleats around it. The single block of my original shears-tackle I had
attached to the end of the boom. Thus, by carrying this tackle to the
windlass, I could raise and lower the end of the boom at will, the butt
always remaining stationary, and, by means of guys, I could swing the boom
from side to side. To the end of the boom I had likewise rigged a
hoisting tackle; and when the whole arrangement was completed I could
not but be startled by the power and latitude it gave me.
Of course, two days' work was required for the accomplishment of this
part of my task, and it was not till the morning of the third day that I
swung the foremast from the deck and proceeded to square its butt to fit the
step. Here I was especially awkward. I sawed and chopped and
chiselled the weathered wood till it had the appearance of having been gnawed
by some gigantic mouse. But it fitted.
"It will work, I know it will work," I cried.
"Do you know Dr. Jordan's final test of truth?" Maud asked.
I shook my head and paused in the act of dislodging the shavings which
had drifted down my neck.
"Can we make it work? Can we trust our lives to it? is the
"He is a favourite of yours," I said.
"When I dismantled my old Pantheon and cast out Napoleon and Caesar and
their fellows, I straightway erected a new Pantheon," she answered gravely,
"and the first I installed as Dr. Jordan."
"A modern hero."
"And a greater because modern," she added. "How can the Old
World heroes compare with ours?"
I shook my head. We were too much alike in many things
for argument. Our points of view and outlook on life at least
were very alike.
"For a pair of critics we agree famously," I laughed.
"And as shipwright and able assistant," she laughed back.
But there was little time for laughter in those days, what of our heavy
work and of the awfulness of Wolf Larsen's living death.
He had received another stroke. He had lost his voice, or he
was losing it. He had only intermittent use of it. As he phrased
it, the wires were like the stock market, now up, now down. Occasionally
the wires were up and he spoke as well as ever, though slowly and
heavily. Then speech would suddenly desert him, in the middle of a
sentence perhaps, and for hours, sometimes, we would wait for the connection
to be re-established. He complained of great pain in his head, and it
was during this period that he arranged a system of communication against the
time when speech should leave him altogether - one pressure of the hand for
"yes," two for "no." It was well that it was arranged, for by evening
his voice had gone from him. By hand pressures, after that,
he answered our questions, and when he wished to speak he scrawled
his thoughts with his left hand, quite legibly, on a sheet of paper.
The fierce winter had now descended upon us. Gale followed
gale, with snow and sleet and rain. The seals had started on their
great southern migration, and the rookery was practically deserted.
I worked feverishly. In spite of the bad weather, and of the
wind which especially hindered me, I was on deck from daylight till
dark and making substantial progress.
I profited by my lesson learned through raising the shears and
then climbing them to attach the guys. To the top of the
foremast, which was just lifted conveniently from the deck, I attached
the rigging, stays and throat and peak halyards. As usual, I
had underrated the amount of work involved in this portion of the
task, and two long days were necessary to complete it. And there was
so much yet to be done - the sails, for instance, which practically had to
be made over.
While I toiled at rigging the foremast, Maud sewed on canvas,
ready always to drop everything and come to my assistance when more
hands than two were required. The canvas was heavy and hard, and
she sewed with the regular sailor's palm and three-cornered
sail- needle. Her hands were soon sadly blistered, but she
struggled bravely on, and in addition doing the cooking and taking care
of the sick man.
"A fig for superstition," I said on Friday morning. "That
mast goes in to-day.'
Everything was ready for the attempt. Carrying the boom-tackle
to the windlass, I hoisted the mast nearly clear of the deck.
Making this tackle fast, I took to the windlass the shears-tackle
(which was connected with the end of the boom), and with a few turns
had the mast perpendicular and clear.
Maud clapped her hands the instant she was relieved from holding the
"It works! It works! We'll trust our lives to it!"
Then she assumed a rueful expression.
"It's not over the hole," she add. "Will you have to begin
I smiled in superior fashion, and, slacking off on one of the boom- guys
and taking in on the other, swung the mast perfectly in the centre of the
deck. Still it was not over the hole. Again the rueful expression
came on her face, and again I smiled in a superior way. Slacking away
on the boom-tackle and hoisting an equivalent amount on the shears-tackle, I
brought the butt of the mast into position directly over the hole in the
deck. Then I gave Maud careful instructions for lowering away and went
into the hold to the step on the schooner's bottom.
I called to her, and the mast moved easily and accurately. Straight
toward the square hole of the step the square butt descended; but as it
descended it slowly twisted so that square would not fit into square.
But I had not even a moment's indecision. Calling to Maud to cease
lowering, I went on deck and made the watch-tackle fast to the mast with a
rolling hitch. I left Maud to pull on it while I went below. By
the light of the lantern I saw the butt twist slowly around till its sides
coincided with the sides of the step. Maud made fast and returned to
the windlass. Slowly the butt descended the several
intervening inches, at the same time slightly twisting again. Again
Maud rectified the twist with the watch-tackle, and again she lowered away
from the windlass. Square fitted into square. The mast
I raised a shout, and she ran down to see. In the yellow
lantern light we peered at what we had accomplished. We looked at
each other, and our hands felt their way and clasped. The eyes of
both of us, I think, were moist with the joy of success.
"It was done so easily after all," I remarked. "All the work
was in the preparation."
"And all the wonder in the completion," Maud added. "I
can scarcely bring myself to realize that that great mast is really up and
in; that you have lifted it from the water, swung it through the air, and
deposited it here where it belongs. It is a Titan's task."
"And they made themselves many inventions," I began merrily, then paused
to sniff the air.
I looked hastily at the lantern. It was not smoking. Again
"Something is burning," Maud said, with sudden conviction.
We sprang together for the ladder, but I raced past her to
the deck. A dense volume of smoke was pouring out of the
"The Wolf is not yet dead," I muttered to myself as I sprang
down through the smoke.
It was so thick in the confined space that I was compelled to feel my
way; and so potent was the spell of Wolf Larsen on my imagination, I was
quite prepared for the helpless giant to grip my neck in a strangle
hold. I hesitated, the desire to race back and up the steps to the deck
almost overpowering me. Then I recollected Maud. The vision of
her, as I had last seen her, in the lantern light of the schooner's hold, her
brown eyes warm and moist with joy, flashed before me, and I knew that I
could not go back.
I was choking and suffocating by the time I reached Wolf
Larsen's bunk. I reached my hand and felt for his. He was
lying motionless, but moved slightly at the touch of my hand. I
felt over and under his blankets. There was no warmth, no sign of
fire. Yet that smoke which blinded me and made me cough and gasp must have
a source. I lost my head temporarily and dashed frantically about the
steerage. A collision with the table partially knocked the wind from my
body and brought me to myself. I reasoned that a helpless man could
start a fire only near to where he lay.
I returned to Wolf Larsen's bunk. There I encountered Maud.
How long she had been there in that suffocating atmosphere I could
"Go up on deck!" I commanded peremptorily.
"But, Humphrey - " she began to protest in a queer, husky voice.
"Please! please!" I shouted at her harshly.
She drew away obediently, and then I thought, What if she cannot find
the steps? I started after her, to stop at the foot of
the companion-way. Perhaps she had gone up. As I stood
there, hesitant, I heard her cry softly:
"Oh, Humphrey, I am lost."
I found her fumbling at the wall of the after bulkhead, and,
half leading her, half carrying her, I took her up the companion-way. The
pure air was like nectar. Maud was only faint and dizzy, and I left her
lying on the deck when I took my second plunge below.
The source of the smoke must be very close to Wolf Larsen - my mind was
made up to this, and I went straight to his bunk. As I felt about among
his blankets, something hot fell on the back of my hand. It burned me,
and I jerked my hand away. Then I understood. Through the cracks in the
bottom of the upper bunk he had set fire to the mattress. He still
retained sufficient use of his left arm to do this. The damp straw of
the mattress, fired from beneath and denied air, had been smouldering all the
As I dragged the mattress out of the bunk it seemed to disintegrate in
mid-air, at the same time bursting into flames. I beat out the burning
remnants of straw in the bunk, then made a dash for the deck for fresh
Several buckets of water sufficed to put out the burning mattress in the
middle of the steerage floor; and ten minutes later, when the smoke had
fairly cleared, I allowed Maud to come below. Wolf Larsen was
unconscious, but it was a matter of minutes for the fresh air to restore
him. We were working over him, however, when he signed for paper and
"Pray do not interrupt me," he wrote. "I am smiling."
"I am still a bit of the ferment, you see," he wrote a
"I am glad you are as small a bit as you are," I said.
"Thank you," he wrote. "But just think of how much smaller I
shall be before I die."
"And yet I am all here, Hump," he wrote with a final flourish.
"I can think more clearly than ever in my life before. Nothing
to disturb me. Concentration is perfect. I am all here and more
It was like a message from the night of the grave; for this man's body
had become his mausoleum. And there, in so strange sepulchre, his
spirit fluttered and lived. It would flutter and live till the last
line of communication was broken, and after that who was to say how much
longer it might continue to flutter and live?
"I think my left side is going," Wolf Larsen wrote, the morning after
his attempt to fire the ship. "The numbness is growing. I can
hardly move my hand. You will have to speak louder. The
last lines are going down."
"Are you in pain?" I asked.
I was compelled to repeat my question loudly before he answered:
"Not all the time."
The left hand stumbled slowly and painfully across the paper, and it was
with extreme difficulty that we deciphered the scrawl. It was like a
"spirit message," such as are delivered at seances of spiritualists for a
"But I am still here, all here," the hand scrawled more slowly
and painfully than ever.
The pencil dropped, and we had to replace it in the hand.
"When there is no pain I have perfect peace and quiet. I
have never thought so clearly. I can ponder life and death like
a Hindoo sage."
"And immortality?" Maud queried loudly in the ear.
Three times the hand essayed to write but fumbled hopelessly.
The pencil fell. In vain we tried to replace it. The fingers
could not close on it. Then Maud pressed and held the fingers about
the pencil with her own hand and the hand wrote, in large letters, and so
slowly that the minutes ticked off to each letter:
It was Wolf Larsen's last word, "bosh," sceptical and invincible to the
end. The arm and hand relaxed. The trunk of the body
moved slightly. Then there was no movement. Maud released the
hand. The fingers spread slightly, falling apart of their own weight,
and the pencil rolled away.
"Do you still hear?" I shouted, holding the fingers and waiting for the
single pressure which would signify "Yes." There was no response.
The hand was dead.
"I noticed the lips slightly move," Maud said.
I repeated the question. The lips moved. She placed the tips
of her fingers on them. Again I repeated the question. "Yes,"
Maud announced. We looked at each other expectantly.
"What good is it?" I asked. "What can we say now?"
"Oh, ask him - "
"Ask him something that requires no for an answer," I suggested. "Then
we will know for certainty."
"Are you hungry?" she cried.
The lips moved under her fingers, and she answered, "Yes."
"Will you have some beef?" was her next query.
"No," she announced.
"Yes, he will have some beef-tea," she said, quietly, looking up
at me. "Until his hearing goes we shall be able to communicate
with him. And after that - "
She looked at me queerly. I saw her lips trembling and the
tears swimming up in her eyes. She swayed toward me and I caught her
in my arms.
"Oh, Humphrey," she sobbed, "when will it all end? I am so
tired, so tired."
She buried her head on my shoulder, her frail form shaken with a storm
of weeping. She was like a feather in my arms, so slender, so
ethereal. "She has broken down at last," I thought. "What can I
do without her help?"
But I soothed and comforted her, till she pulled herself
bravely together and recuperated mentally as quickly as she was wont to
"I ought to be ashamed of myself," she said. Then added, with
the whimsical smile I adored, "but I am only one, small woman."
That phrase, the "one small woman," startled me like an
electric shock. It was my own phrase, my pet, secret phrase, my love
phrase for her.
"Where did you get that phrase?" I demanded, with an abruptness that in
turn startled her.
"What phrase?" she asked.
"One small woman."
"Is it yours?" she asked.
"Yes," I answered. "Mine. I made it."
"Then you must have talked in your sleep," she smiled.
The dancing, tremulous light was in her eyes. Mine, I knew,
were speaking beyond the will of my speech. I leaned toward
her. Without volition I leaned toward her, as a tree is swayed by
the wind. Ah, we were very close together in that moment. But
she shook her head, as one might shake off sleep or a dream, saying:
"I have known it all my life. It was my father's name for
"It is my phrase too," I said stubbornly.
"For your mother?"
"No," I answered, and she questioned no further, though I could have
sworn her eyes retained for some time a mocking, teasing expression.
With the foremast in, the work now went on apace. Almost before
I knew it, and without one serious hitch, I had the mainmast stepped. A
derrick-boom, rigged to the foremast, had accomplished this; and several days
more found all stays and shrouds in place, and everything set up taut.
Topsails would be a nuisance and a danger for a crew of two, so I heaved the
topmasts on deck and lashed them fast.
Several more days were consumed in finishing the sails and putting them
on. There were only three - the jib, foresail, and mainsail; and,
patched, shortened, and distorted, they were a ridiculously ill-fitting suit
for so trim a craft as the Ghost.
"But they'll work!" Maud cried jubilantly. "We'll make them
work, and trust our lives to them!"
Certainly, among my many new trades, I shone least as a sail-maker. I
could sail them better than make them, and I had no doubt of my power to
bring the schooner to some northern port of Japan. In fact, I had
crammed navigation from text-books aboard; and besides, there was Wolf
Larsen's star-scale, so simple a device that a child could work it.
As for its inventor, beyond an increasing deafness and the movement of
the lips growing fainter and fainter, there had been little change in his
condition for a week. But on the day we finished bending the schooner's
sails, he heard his last, and the last movement of his lips died away - but
not before I had asked him, "Are you all there?" and the lips had answered,
The last line was down. Somewhere within that tomb of the
flesh still dwelt the soul of the man. Walled by the living clay,
that fierce intelligence we had known burned on; but it burned on
in silence and darkness. And it was disembodied. To
that intelligence there could be no objective knowledge of a body.
It knew no body. The very world was not. It knew only itself and
the vastness and profundity of the quiet and the dark.
The day came for our departure. There was no longer anything
to detain us on Endeavour Island. The Ghost's stumpy masts were
in place, her crazy sails bent. All my handiwork was strong, none
of it beautiful; but I knew that it would work, and I felt myself a man of
power as I looked at it.
"I did it! I did it! With my own hands I did it!" I wanted to
But Maud and I had a way of voicing each other's thoughts, and she said,
as we prepared to hoist the mainsail:
"To think, Humphrey, you did it all with your own hands?"
"But there were two other hands," I answered. "Two small
hands, and don't say that was a phrase, also, of your father."
She laughed and shook her head, and held her hands up
"I can never get them clean again," she wailed, "nor soften
"Then dirt and weather-beat shall be your guerdon of honour," I said,
holding them in mine; and, spite of my resolutions, I would have kissed the
two dear hands had she not swiftly withdrawn them.
Our comradeship was becoming tremulous, I had mastered my love long and
well, but now it was mastering me. Wilfully had it disobeyed and won my
eyes to speech, and now it was winning my tongue - ay, and my lips, for they
were mad this moment to kiss the two small hands which had toiled so
faithfully and hard. And I, too, was mad. There was a cry in my
being like bugles calling me to her. And there was a wind blowing upon me
which I could not resist, swaying the very body of me till I leaned toward
her, all unconscious that I leaned. And she knew it. She could
not but know it as she swiftly drew away her hands, and yet, could
not forbear one quick searching look before she turned away her eyes.
By means of deck-tackles I had arranged to carry the halyards forward to
the windlass; and now I hoisted the mainsail, peak and throat, at the same
time. It was a clumsy way, but it did not take long, and soon the
foresail as well was up and fluttering.
"We can never get that anchor up in this narrow place, once it has left
the bottom," I said. "We should be on the rocks first."
"What can you do?" she asked.
"Slip it," was my answer. "And when I do, you must do your
first work on the windlass. I shall have to run at once to the
wheel, and at the same time you must be hoisting the jib."
This manoeuvre of getting under way I had studied and worked out a score
of times; and, with the jib-halyard to the windlass, I knew Maud was capable
of hoisting that most necessary sail. A brisk wind was blowing into the
cove, and though the water was calm, rapid work was required to get us safely
When I knocked the shackle-bolt loose, the chain roared out through the
hawse-hole and into the sea. I raced aft, putting the wheel up.
The Ghost seemed to start into life as she heeled to the first fill of her
sails. The jib was rising. As it filled, the Ghost's bow swung
off and I had to put the wheel down a few spokes and steady her.
I had devised an automatic jib-sheet which passed the jib across
of itself, so there was no need for Maud to attend to that; but she was
still hoisting the jib when I put the wheel hard down. It was a moment
of anxiety, for the Ghost was rushing directly upon the beach, a stone's
throw distant. But she swung obediently on her heel into the
wind. There was a great fluttering and flapping of canvas and
reef-points, most welcome to my ears, then she filled away on the other
Maud had finished her task and come aft, where she stood beside me, a
small cap perched on her wind-blown hair, her cheeks flushed from exertion,
her eyes wide and bright with the excitement, her nostrils quivering to the
rush and bite of the fresh salt air. Her brown eyes were like a
startled deer's. There was a wild, keen look in them I had never seen
before, and her lips parted and her breath suspended as the Ghost, charging
upon the wall of rock at the entrance to the inner cove, swept into the wind
and filled away into safe water.
My first mate's berth on the sealing grounds stood me in good stead, and
I cleared the inner cove and laid a long tack along the shore of the outer
cove. Once again about, and the Ghost headed out to open sea. She
had now caught the bosom-breathing of the ocean, and was herself a-breath
with the rhythm of it as she smoothly mounted and slipped down each
broad-backed wave. The day had been dull and overcast, but the sun now
burst through the clouds, a welcome omen, and shone upon the curving beach
where together we had dared the lords of the harem and slain
the holluschickie. All Endeavour Island brightened under the
sun. Even the grim south-western promontory showed less grim, and here and
there, where the sea-spray wet its surface, high lights flashed and dazzled
in the sun.
"I shall always think of it with pride," I said to Maud.
She threw her head back in a queenly way but said, "Dear, dear Endeavour
Island! I shall always love it."
"And I," I said quickly.
It seemed our eyes must meet in a great understanding, and yet, loath,
they struggled away and did not meet.
There was a silence I might almost call awkward, till I broke
"See those black clouds to windward. You remember, I told you
last night the barometer was falling."
"And the sun is gone," she said, her eyes still fixed upon our island,
where we had proved our mastery over matter and attained to the truest
comradeship that may fall to man and woman.
"And it's slack off the sheets for Japan I cried gaily. "A
fair wind and a flowing sheet, you know, or however it goes."
Lashing the wheel I ran forward, eased the fore and mainsheets, took in
on the boom-tackles and trimmed everything for the quartering breeze which
was ours. It was a fresh breeze, very fresh, but I resolved to run as
long as I dared. Unfortunately, when running free, it is impossible to
lash the wheel, so I faced an all-night watch. Maud insisted on
relieving me, but proved that she had not the strength to steer in a heavy
sea, even if she could have gained the wisdom on such short notice. She
appeared quite heart-broken over the discovery, but recovered her spirits
by coiling down tackles and halyards and all stray ropes. Then
there were meals to be cooked in the galley, beds to make, Wolf Larsen
to be attended upon, and she finished the day with a grand house- cleaning
attack upon the cabin and steerage.
All night I steered, without relief, the wind slowly and
steadily increasing and the sea rising. At five in the morning Maud
brought me hot coffee and biscuits she had baked, and at seven
a substantial and piping hot breakfast put new lift into me.
Throughout the day, and as slowly and steadily as ever, the
wind increased. It impressed one with its sullen determination to
blow, and blow harder, and keep on blowing. And still the Ghost
foamed along, racing off the miles till I was certain she was making
at least eleven knots. It was too good to lose, but by nightfall
I was exhausted. Though in splendid physical trim, a
thirty-six-hour trick at the wheel was the limit of my endurance.
Besides, Maud begged me to heave to, and I knew, if the wind and sea
increased at the same rate during the night, that it would soon be impossible
to heave to. So, as twilight deepened, gladly and at the same
time reluctantly, I brought the Ghost up on the wind.
But I had not reckoned upon the colossal task the reefing of three sails
meant for one man. While running away from the wind I had not
appreciated its force, but when we ceased to run I learned to my sorrow, and
well-nigh to my despair, how fiercely it was really blowing. The wind
balked my every effort, ripping the canvas out of my hands and in an instant
undoing what I had gained by ten minutes of severest struggle. At eight
o'clock I had succeeded only in putting the second reef into the
foresail. At eleven o'clock I was no farther along. Blood dripped
from every finger- end, while the nails were broken to the quick. From
pain and sheer exhaustion I wept in the darkness, secretly, so that Maud
should not know.
Then, in desperation, I abandoned the attempt to reef the mainsail and
resolved to try the experiment of heaving to under the close- reefed
foresail. Three hours more were required to gasket the mainsail and
jib, and at two in the morning, nearly dead, the life almost buffeted and
worked out of me, I had barely sufficient consciousness to know the
experiment was a success. The close- reefed foresail worked. The
Ghost clung on close to the wind and betrayed no inclination to fall off
broadside to the trough.
I was famished, but Maud tried vainly to get me to eat. I
dozed with my mouth full of food. I would fall asleep in the act
of carrying food to my mouth and waken in torment to find the act
yet uncompleted. So sleepily helpless was I that she was compelled
to hold me in my chair to prevent my being flung to the floor by
the violent pitching of the schooner.
Of the passage from the galley to the cabin I knew nothing. It
was a sleep-walker Maud guided and supported. In fact, I was aware
of nothing till I awoke, how long after I could not imagine, in my bunk
with my boots off. It was dark. I was stiff and lame, and cried
out with pain when the bed-clothes touched my poor finger- ends.
Morning had evidently not come, so I closed my eyes and went to sleep
again. I did not know it, but I had slept the clock around and it was
Once more I woke, troubled because I could sleep no better.
I struck a match and looked at my watch. It marked midnight. And
I had not left the deck until three! I should have been puzzled
had I not guessed the solution. No wonder I was sleeping
brokenly. I had slept twenty-one hours. I listened for a while to
the behaviour of the Ghost, to the pounding of the seas and the
muffled roar of the wind on deck, and then turned over on my ride and
slept peacefully until morning.
When I arose at seven I saw no sign of Maud and concluded she was in the
galley preparing breakfast. On deck I found the Ghost doing splendidly
under her patch of canvas. But in the galley, though a fire was burning
and water boiling, I found no Maud.
I discovered her in the steerage, by Wolf Larsen's bunk. I
looked at him, the man who had been hurled down from the topmost pitch
of life to be buried alive and be worse than dead. There seemed
a relaxation of his expressionless face which was new. Maud
looked at me and I understood.
"His life flickered out in the storm," I said.
"But he still lives," she answered, infinite faith in her voice.
"He had too great strength."
"Yes," she said, "but now it no longer shackles him. He is a
"He is a free spirit surely," I answered; and, taking her hand, I led
her on deck.
The storm broke that night, which is to say that it diminished as slowly
as it had arisen. After breakfast next morning, when I had hoisted Wolf
Larsen's body on deck ready for burial, it was still blowing heavily and a
large sea was running. The deck was continually awash with the sea
which came inboard over the rail and through the scuppers. The wind
smote the schooner with a sudden gust, and she heeled over till her lee rail
was buried, the roar in her rigging rising in pitch to a shriek. We
stood in the water to our knees as I bared my head.
"I remember only one part of the service," I said, "and that is, 'And
the body shall be cast into the sea.'"
Maud looked at me, surprised and shocked; but the spirit of something I
had seen before was strong upon me, impelling me to give service to Wolf
Larsen as Wolf Larsen had once given service to another man. I lifted
the end of the hatch cover and the canvas-shrouded body slipped feet first
into the sea. The weight of iron dragged it down. It was
"Good-bye, Lucifer, proud spirit," Maud whispered, so low that it was
drowned by the shouting of the wind; but I saw the movement of her lips and
As we clung to the lee rail and worked our way aft, I happened to glance
to leeward. The Ghost, at the moment, was uptossed on a sea, and I
caught a clear view of a small steamship two or three miles away, rolling and
pitching, head on to the sea, as it steamed toward us. It was painted
black, and from the talk of the hunters of their poaching exploits I
recognized it as a United States revenue cutter. I pointed it out to
Maud and hurriedly led her aft to the safety of the poop.
I started to rush below to the flag-locker, then remembered that
in rigging the Ghost. I had forgotten to make provision for a
"We need no distress signal," Maud said. "They have only to
"We are saved," I said, soberly and solemnly. And then, in
an exuberance of joy, "I hardly know whether to be glad or not."
I looked at her. Our eyes were not loath to meet. We
leaned toward each other, and before I knew it my arms were about her.
"Need I?" I asked.
And she answered, "There is no need, though the telling of it would be
sweet, so sweet."
Her lips met the press of mine, and, by what strange trick of
the imagination I know not, the scene in the cabin of the Ghost
flashed upon me, when she had pressed her fingers lightly on my lips
and said, "Hush, hush."
"My woman, my one small woman," I said, my free hand petting
her shoulder in the way all lovers know though never learn in school.
"My man," she said, looking at me for an instant with tremulous lids
which fluttered down and veiled her eyes as she snuggled her head against my
breast with a happy little sigh.
I looked toward the cutter. It was very close. A boat was
"One kiss, dear love," I whispered. "One kiss more before
"And rescue us from ourselves," she completed, with a most
adorable smile, whimsical as I had never seen it, for it was whimsical
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