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The Sea Wolf 131







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The Sea Wolf




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 my own. 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 boats 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 Larsens 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 Mauds 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

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