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The Sea Wolf 10

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

beyond and out of sight. There was no sounding such a spirit, no measuring, no determining of metes and bounds, nor neatly classifying in some pigeon-hole with others of similar type. The eyes--and it was my destiny to know them well--were large and handsome, wide apart as the true artists are wide, sheltering under a heavy brow and arched over by thick black eyebrows. The eyes themselves were of that baffling protean grey which is never twice the same; which runs through many shades and colourings like intershot silk in sunshine; which is grey, dark and light, and greenish-grey, and sometimes of the clear azure of the deep sea. They were eyes that masked the soul with a thousand guises, and that sometimes opened, at rare moments, and allowed it to rush up as though it were about to fare forth nakedly into the world on some wonderful adventure,--eyes that could brood with the hopeless sombreness of leaden skies; that could snap and crackle points of fire like those which sparkle from a whirling sword; that could grow chill as an arctic landscape, and yet again, that could warm and soften and be all a-dance with love-lights, intense and masculine, luring and compelling, which at the same time fascinate and dominate women till they surrender in a gladness of joy and of relief and sacrifice. But to return. I told him that, unhappily for the burial service, I was not a preacher, when he sharply demanded: "What do you do for a living?" I confess I had never had such a question asked me before, nor had I ever canvassed it. I was quite taken aback, and before I could find myself had sillily stammered, "I--I am a gentleman." His lip curled in a swift sneer. "I have worked, I do work," I cried impetuously, as though he were my judge and I required vindication, and at the same time very much aware of my arrant idiocy in discussing the subject at all. "For your living?" There was something so imperative and masterful about him that I was quite beside myself--"rattled," as Furuseth would have termed it, like a quaking child before a stern school-master. "Who feeds you?" was his next question. "I have an income," I answered stoutly, and could have bitten my tongue the next instant. "All of which, you will pardon my observing, has nothing whatsoever to do with what I wish to see you about." But he disregarded my protest. "Who earned it? Eh? I thought so. Your father. You stand on dead mens legs. Youve never had any of your own. You couldnt walk alone between two sunrises and hustle the meat for your belly for three meals. Let me see your hand." His tremendous, dormant strength must have stirred, swiftly and accurately, or I must have slept a moment, for before I knew it he had stepped two paces forward, gripped my right hand in his, and held it up for inspection. I tried to withdraw it, but his fingers tightened, without visible effort, till I thought mine would be crushed. It is hard to maintain ones dignity under such circumstances. I could not squirm or struggle like a schoolboy. Nor could I attack such a creature who had but to twist my arm to break it. Nothing remained but to stand still and accept the indignity. I had time to notice that the pockets of the dead man had been emptied on the deck, and that his body and his grin had been wrapped from view in canvas, the folds of which the sailor, Johansen, was sewing together with coarse white twine, shoving the needle through with a leather contrivance fitted on the palm of his hand. Wolf Larsen dropped my hand with a flirt of disdain. "Dead mens hands have kept it soft. Good for little else than dish-washing and scullion work." "I wish to be put ashore," I said firmly, for I now had myself in control. "I shall pay you whatever you judge your delay and trouble to be worth." He looked at me curiously. Mockery shone in his eyes. "I have a counter proposition to make, and for the good of your soul. My mates gone, and therell be a lot of promotion. A sailor comes aft to take mates place, cabin-boy goes forard to take sailors place, and you take the cabin-boys place, sign the articles for the cruise, twenty dollars per month and found. Now what

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