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The Sea Wolf 31







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The Sea Wolf




day, and I had just finished putting the cabin in order, when Wolf Larsen and Thomas Mugridge descended the companion stairs. Though the cook had a cubby-hole of a state- room opening off from the cabin, in the cabin itself he had never dared to linger or to be seen, and he flitted to and fro, once or twice a day, a timid spectre. "So you know how to play Nap," Wolf Larsen was saying in a pleased sort of voice. "I might have guessed an Englishman would know. I learned it myself in English ships." Thomas Mugridge was beside himself, a blithering imbecile, so pleased was he at chumming thus with the captain. The little airs he put on and the painful striving to assume the easy carriage of a man born to a dignified place in life would have been sickening had they not been ludicrous. He quite ignored my presence, though I credited him with being simply unable to see me. His pale, wishy- washy eyes were swimming like lazy summer seas, though what blissful visions they beheld were beyond my imagination. "Get the cards, Hump," Wolf Larsen ordered, as they took seats at the table. "And bring out the cigars and the whisky youll find in my berth." I returned with the articles in time to hear the Cockney hinting broadly that there was a mystery about him, that he might be a gentlemans son gone wrong or something or other; also, that he was a remittance man and was paid to keep away from England--"pyed ansomely, sir," was the way he put it; "pyed ansomely to sling my ook an keep slingin it." I had brought the customary liquor glasses, but Wolf Larsen frowned, shook his head, and signalled with his hands for me to bring the tumblers. These he filled two-thirds full with undiluted whisky--"a gentlemans drink?" quoth Thomas Mugridge,--and they clinked their glasses to the glorious game of "Nap," lighted cigars, and fell to shuffling and dealing the cards. They played for money. They increased the amounts of the bets. They drank whisky, they drank it neat, and I fetched more. I do not know whether Wolf Larsen cheated or not,--a thing he was thoroughly capable of doing,--but he won steadily. The cook made repeated journeys to his bunk for money. Each time he performed the journey with greater swagger, but he never brought more than a few dollars at a time. He grew maudlin, familiar, could hardly see the cards or sit upright. As a preliminary to another journey to his bunk, he hooked Wolf Larsens buttonhole with a greasy forefinger and vacuously proclaimed and reiterated, "I got money, I got money, I tell yer, an Im a gentlemans son." Wolf Larsen was unaffected by the drink, yet he drank glass for glass, and if anything his glasses were fuller. There was no change in him. He did not appear even amused at the others antics. In the end, with loud protestations that he could lose like a gentleman, the cooks last money was staked on the game--and lost. Whereupon he leaned his head on his hands and wept. Wolf Larsen looked curiously at him, as though about to probe and vivisect him, then changed his mind, as from the foregone conclusion that there was nothing there to probe. "Hump," he said to me, elaborately polite, "kindly take Mr. Mugridges arm and help him up on deck. He is not feeling very well." "And tell Johnson to douse him with a few buckets of salt water," he added, in a lower tone for my ear alone. I left Mr. Mugridge on deck, in the hands of a couple of grinning sailors who had been told off for the purpose. Mr. Mugridge was sleepily spluttering that he was a gentlemans son. But as I descended the companion stairs to clear the table I heard him shriek as the first bucket of water struck him. Wolf Larsen was counting his winnings. "One hundred and eighty-five dollars even," he said aloud. "Just as I thought. "The beggar came aboard without a cent." "And what you have won is mine, sir," I said boldly. He favoured me with a quizzical smile. "Hump, I have studied some grammar in my time, and I think your tenses are tangled. Was mine, you should have said, not is mine." "It is a question, not of grammar, but of ethics," I answered. It was possibly a minute

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