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The Sea Wolf 26







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The Sea Wolf




his former position, where he hung, a pitiable object. "Ill bet he has no appetite for supper," I heard Wolf Larsens voice, which came to me from around the corner of the galley. "Stand from under, you, Johansen! Watch out! Here she comes!" In truth, Harrison was very sick, as a person is sea-sick; and for a long time he clung to his precarious perch without attempting to move. Johansen, however, continued violently to urge him on to the completion of his task. "It is a shame," I heard Johnson growling in painfully slow and correct English. He was standing by the main rigging, a few feet away from me. "The boy is willing enough. He will learn if he has a chance. But this is--" He paused awhile, for the word "murder" was his final judgment. "Hist, will ye!" Louis whispered to him, "For the love iv your mother hold your mouth!" But Johnson, looking on, still continued his grumbling. "Look here," the hunter Standish spoke to Wolf Larsen, "thats my boat-puller, and I dont want to lose him." "Thats all right, Standish," was the reply. "Hes your boat- puller when youve got him in the boat; but hes my sailor when I have him aboard, and Ill do what I damn well please with him." "But thats no reason--" Standish began in a torrent of speech. "Thatll do, easy as she goes," Wolf Larsen counselled back. "Ive told you whats what, and let it stop at that. The mans mine, and Ill make soup of him and eat it if I want to." There was an angry gleam in the hunters eye, but he turned on his heel and entered the steerage companion-way, where he remained, looking upward. All hands were on deck now, and all eyes were aloft, where a human life was at grapples with death. The callousness of these men, to whom industrial organization gave control of the lives of other men, was appalling. I, who had lived out of the whirl of the world, had never dreamed that its work was carried on in such fashion. Life had always seemed a peculiarly sacred thing, but here it counted for nothing, was a cipher in the arithmetic of commerce. I must say, however, that the sailors themselves were sympathetic, as instance the case of Johnson; but the masters (the hunters and the captain) were heartlessly indifferent. Even the protest of Standish arose out of the fact that he did not wish to lose his boat-puller. Had it been some other hunters boat-puller, he, like them, would have been no more than amused. But to return to Harrison. It took Johansen, insulting and reviling the poor wretch, fully ten minutes to get him started again. A little later he made the end of the gaff, where, astride the spar itself, he had a better chance for holding on. He cleared the sheet, and was free to return, slightly downhill now, along the halyards to the mast. But he had lost his nerve. Unsafe as was his present position, he was loath to forsake it for the more unsafe position on the halyards. He looked along the airy path he must traverse, and then down to the deck. His eyes were wide and staring, and he was trembling violently. I had never seen fear so strongly stamped upon a human face. Johansen called vainly for him to come down. At any moment he was liable to be snapped off the gaff, but he was helpless with fright. Wolf Larsen, walking up and down with Smoke and in conversation, took no more notice of him, though he cried sharply, once, to the man at the wheel: "Youre off your course, my man! Be careful, unless youre looking for trouble!" "Ay, ay, sir," the helmsman responded, putting a couple of spokes down. He had been guilty of running the Ghost several points off her course in order that what little wind there was should fill the foresail and hold it steady. He had striven to help the unfortunate Harrison at the risk of incurring Wolf Larsens anger. The time went by, and the suspense, to me, was terrible. Thomas Mugridge, on the other hand, considered it a laughable affair, and was continually bobbing his head out the galley door to make jocose remarks. How I hated him! And how my hatred for him grew and grew,

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