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The Sea Wolf 20

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

life worth the price? Besides, consider it a lesson. Youll learn in time how to take care of your money for yourself. I suppose, up to now, your lawyer has done it for you, or your business agent." I could feel the quiet sneer through his words, but demanded, "How can I get it back again?" "Thats your look-out. You havent any lawyer or business agent now, so youll have to depend on yourself. When you get a dollar, hang on to it. A man who leaves his money lying around, the way you did, deserves to lose it. Besides, you have sinned. You have no right to put temptation in the way of your fellow-creatures. You tempted Cooky, and he fell. You have placed his immortal soul in jeopardy. By the way, do you believe in the immortal soul?" His lids lifted lazily as he asked the question, and it seemed that the deeps were opening to me and that I was gazing into his soul. But it was an illusion. Far as it might have seemed, no man has ever seen very far into Wolf Larsens soul, or seen it at all,--of this I am convinced. It was a very lonely soul, I was to learn, that never unmasked, though at rare moments it played at doing so. "I read immortality in your eyes," I answered, dropping the "sir,"- -an experiment, for I thought the intimacy of the conversation warranted it. He took no notice. "By that, I take it, you see something that is alive, but that necessarily does not have to live for ever." "I read more than that," I continued boldly. "Then you read consciousness. You read the consciousness of life that it is alive; but still no further away, no endlessness of life." How clearly he thought, and how well he expressed what he thought! From regarding me curiously, he turned his head and glanced out over the leaden sea to windward. A bleakness came into his eyes, and the lines of his mouth grew severe and harsh. He was evidently in a pessimistic mood. "Then to what end?" he demanded abruptly, turning back to me. "If I am immortal--why?" I halted. How could I explain my idealism to this man? How could I put into speech a something felt, a something like the strains of music heard in sleep, a something that convinced yet transcended utterance? "What do you believe, then?" I countered. "I believe that life is a mess," he answered promptly. "It is like yeast, a ferment, a thing that moves and may move for a minute, an hour, a year, or a hundred years, but that in the end will cease to move. The big eat the little that they may continue to move, the strong eat the weak that they may retain their strength. The lucky eat the most and move the longest, that is all. What do you make of those things?" He swept his am in an impatient gesture toward a number of the sailors who were working on some kind of rope stuff amidships. "They move, so does the jelly-fish move. They move in order to eat in order that they may keep moving. There you have it. They live for their bellys sake, and the belly is for their sake. Its a circle; you get nowhere. Neither do they. In the end they come to a standstill. They move no more. They are dead." "They have dreams," I interrupted, "radiant, flashing dreams--" "Of grub," he concluded sententiously. "And of more--" "Grub. Of a larger appetite and more luck in satisfying it." His voice sounded harsh. There was no levity in it. "For, look you, they dream of making lucky voyages which will bring them more money, of becoming the mates of ships, of finding fortunes--in short, of being in a better position for preying on their fellows, of having all night in, good grub and somebody else to do the dirty work. You and I are just like them. There is no difference, except that we have eaten more and better. I am eating them now, and you too. But in the past you have eaten more than I have. You have slept in soft beds, and worn fine clothes, and eaten good meals. Who made those beds? and those clothes? and

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