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The Sea Wolf 135







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Books:

Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf




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 or leg." "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. "Its unfortunate," he continued. "Id 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. Somethings gone wrong with my brain. A cancer, a tumour, or something of that nature,--a thing that devours and destroys. Its 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 powerless." "When you say YOU are here, Id suggest the likelihood of the soul," I said. "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. "Its dead safe. Im 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 Ive had warnings of this for the last three days; by spells, my right side seemed going to sleep, sometimes arm or hand, sometimes leg or foot." "So my smile is crooked?" he queried

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