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The Sea Wolf 45

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

had just finished sweeping the cabin, and had been inveigled by Wolf Larsen into a discussion of Hamlet, his favourite Shakespearian character, when Johansen descended the companion stairs followed by Johnson. The latters cap came off after the custom of the sea, and he stood respectfully in the centre of the cabin, swaying heavily and uneasily to the roll of the schooner and facing the captain. "Shut the doors and draw the slide," Wolf Larsen said to me. As I obeyed I noticed an anxious light come into Johnsons eyes, but I did not dream of its cause. I did not dream of what was to occur until it did occur, but he knew from the very first what was coming and awaited it bravely. And in his action I found complete refutation of all Wolf Larsens materialism. The sailor Johnson was swayed by idea, by principle, and truth, and sincerity. He was right, he knew he was right, and he was unafraid. He would die for the right if needs be, he would be true to himself, sincere with his soul. And in this was portrayed the victory of the spirit over the flesh, the indomitability and moral grandeur of the soul that knows no restriction and rises above time and space and matter with a surety and invincibleness born of nothing else than eternity and immortality. But to return. I noticed the anxious light in Johnsons eyes, but mistook it for the native shyness and embarrassment of the man. The mate, Johansen, stood away several feet to the side of him, and fully three yards in front of him sat Wolf Larsen on one of the pivotal cabin chairs. An appreciable pause fell after I had closed the doors and drawn the slide, a pause that must have lasted fully a minute. It was broken by Wolf Larsen. "Yonson," he began. "My name is Johnson, sir," the sailor boldly corrected. "Well, Johnson, then, damn you! Can you guess why I have sent for you?" "Yes, and no, sir," was the slow reply. "My work is done well. The mate knows that, and you know it, sir. So there cannot be any complaint." "And is that all?" Wolf Larsen queried, his voice soft, and low, and purring. "I know you have it in for me," Johnson continued with his unalterable and ponderous slowness. "You do not like me. You-- you--" "Go on," Wolf Larsen prompted. "Dont be afraid of my feelings." "I am not afraid," the sailor retorted, a slight angry flush rising through his sunburn. "If I speak not fast, it is because I have not been from the old country as long as you. You do not like me because I am too much of a man; that is why, sir." "You are too much of a man for ship discipline, if that is what you mean, and if you know what I mean," was Wolf Larsens retort. "I know English, and I know what you mean, sir," Johnson answered, his flush deepening at the slur on his knowledge of the English language. "Johnson," Wolf Larsen said, with an air of dismissing all that had gone before as introductory to the main business in hand, "I understand youre not quite satisfied with those oilskins?" "No, I am not. They are no good, sir." "And youve been shooting off your mouth about them." "I say what I think, sir," the sailor answered courageously, not failing at the same time in ship courtesy, which demanded that "sir" be appended to each speech he made. It was at this moment that I chanced to glance at Johansen. His big fists were clenching and unclenching, and his face was positively fiendish, so malignantly did he look at Johnson. I noticed a black discoloration, still faintly visible, under Johansens eye, a mark of the thrashing he had received a few nights before from the sailor. For the first time I began to divine that something terrible was about to be enacted,--what, I could not imagine. "Do you know what happens to men who say what youve said about my slop-chest and me?" Wolf Larsen was demanding. "I know, sir," was the answer. "What?" Wolf Larsen demanded, sharply and imperatively. "What you and the mate there are going to do to me, sir." "Look at him, Hump," Wolf Larsen said to me, "look at this bit of animated dust, this aggregation of matter that moves and breathes and defies me and thoroughly believes itself to

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