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The Sea Wolf 49







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The Sea Wolf




night while he blissfully slumbered and fought the fight over and over again. As for myself, I was oppressed with nightmare. The day had been like some horrible dream. Brutality had followed brutality, and flaming passions and cold-blooded cruelty had driven men to seek one anothers lives, and to strive to hurt, and maim, and destroy. My nerves were shocked. My mind itself was shocked. All my days had been passed in comparative ignorance of the animality of man. In fact, I had known life only in its intellectual phases. Brutality I had experienced, but it was the brutality of the intellect--the cutting sarcasm of Charley Furuseth, the cruel epigrams and occasional harsh witticisms of the fellows at the Bibelot, and the nasty remarks of some of the professors during my undergraduate days. That was all. But that men should wreak their anger on others by the bruising of the flesh and the letting of blood was something strangely and fearfully new to me. Not for nothing had I been called "Sissy" Van Weyden, I thought, as I tossed restlessly on my bunk between one nightmare and another. And it seemed to me that my innocence of the realities of life had been complete indeed. I laughed bitterly to myself, and seemed to find in Wolf Larsens forbidding philosophy a more adequate explanation of life than I found in my own. And I was frightened when I became conscious of the trend of my thought. The continual brutality around me was degenerative in its effect. It bid fair to destroy for me all that was best and brightest in life. My reason dictated that the beating Thomas Mugridge had received was an ill thing, and yet for the life of me I could not prevent my soul joying in it. And even while I was oppressed by the enormity of my sin,--for sin it was,--I chuckled with an insane delight. I was no longer Humphrey Van Weyden. I was Hump, cabin-boy on the schooner Ghost. Wolf Larsen was my captain, Thomas Mugridge and the rest were my companions, and I was receiving repeated impresses from the die which had stamped them all.

CHAPTER XIII

For three days I did my own work and Thomas Mugridges too; and I flatter myself that I did his work well. I know that it won Wolf Larsens approval, while the sailors beamed with satisfaction during the brief time my regime lasted. "The first clean bite since I come aboard," Harrison said to me at the galley door, as he returned the dinner pots and pans from the forecastle. "Somehow Tommys grub always tastes of grease, stale grease, and I reckon he aint changed his shirt since he left Frisco." "I know he hasnt," I answered. "And Ill bet he sleeps in it," Harrison added. "And you wont lose," I agreed. "The same shirt, and he hasnt had it off once in all this time." But three days was all Wolf Larsen allowed him in which to recover from the effects of the beating. On the fourth day, lame and sore, scarcely able to see, so closed were his eyes, he was haled from his bunk by the nape of the neck and set to his duty. He sniffled and wept, but Wolf Larsen was pitiless. "And see that you serve no more slops," was his parting injunction. "No more grease and dirt, mind, and a clean shirt occasionally, or youll get a tow over the side. Understand?" Thomas Mugridge crawled weakly across the galley floor, and a short lurch of the Ghost sent him staggering. In attempting to recover himself, he reached for the iron railing which surrounded the stove and kept the pots from sliding off; but he missed the railing, and his hand, with his weight behind it, landed squarely on the hot surface. There was a sizzle and odour of burning flesh, and a sharp cry of pain. "Oh, Gawd, Gawd, wot ave I done?" he wailed; sitting down in the coal-box and nursing his new hurt by rocking back and forth. "Wy as all this come on me? It mykes me fair sick, it does, an I try so ard to go through life armless an urtin nobody." The tears were running down his puffed and discoloured cheeks, and his face was drawn with pain. A savage expression flitted across it. "Oh, ow I ate im! Ow I ate im!"

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