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The Sea Wolf 105

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

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 arms. "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 dont scold, dont 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. "Ill 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. "Readily." "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 leg-of-mutton. Late in the afternoon I sighted a steamers 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 wont 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 Larsens chronometer and sextant," I said, still

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