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The Sea Wolf 139







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The Sea Wolf




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 than here." It was like a message from the night of the grave; for this mans 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?

CHAPTER XXXVIII

"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 dollar admission. "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: "B-O-S-H." It was Wolf Larsens 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--" She hesitated. "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. "Beef-tea?" "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 do physically. "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,"

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