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The Sea Wolf 55







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The Sea Wolf




Weve got him!" I could hear Leach crying. "Who?" demanded those who had been really asleep, and who had wakened to they knew not what. "Its the bloody mate!" was Leachs crafty answer, strained from him in a smothered sort of way. This was greeted with whoops of joy, and from then on Wolf Larsen had seven strong men on top of him, Louis, I believe, taking no part in it. The forecastle was like an angry hive of bees aroused by some marauder. "What ho! below there!" I heard Latimer shout down the scuttle, too cautious to descend into the inferno of passion he could hear raging beneath him in the darkness. "Wont somebody get a knife? Oh, wont somebody get a knife?" Leach pleaded in the first interval of comparative silence. The number of the assailants was a cause of confusion. They blocked their own efforts, while Wolf Larsen, with but a single purpose, achieved his. This was to fight his way across the floor to the ladder. Though in total darkness, I followed his progress by its sound. No man less than a giant could have done what he did, once he had gained the foot of the ladder. Step by step, by the might of his arms, the whole pack of men striving to drag him back and down, he drew his body up from the floor till he stood erect. And then, step by step, hand and foot, he slowly struggled up the ladder. The very last of all, I saw. For Latimer, having finally gone for a lantern, held it so that its light shone down the scuttle. Wolf Larsen was nearly to the top, though I could not see him. All that was visible was the mass of men fastened upon him. It squirmed about, like some huge many-legged spider, and swayed back and forth to the regular roll of the vessel. And still, step by step with long intervals between, the mass ascended. Once it tottered, about to fall back, but the broken hold was regained and it still went up. "Who is it?" Latimer cried. In the rays of the lantern I could see his perplexed face peering down. "Larsen," I heard a muffled voice from within the mass. Latimer reached down with his free hand. I saw a hand shoot up to clasp his. Latimer pulled, and the next couple of steps were made with a rush. Then Wolf Larsens other hand reached up and clutched the edge of the scuttle. The mass swung clear of the ladder, the men still clinging to their escaping foe. They began to drop of, to be brushed off against the sharp edge of the scuttle, to be knocked off by the legs which were now kicking powerfully. Leach was the last to go, falling sheer back from the top of the scuttle and striking on head and shoulders upon his sprawling mates beneath. Wolf Larsen and the lantern disappeared, and we were left in darkness.

CHAPTER XV

There was a deal of cursing and groaning as the men at the bottom of the ladder crawled to their feet. "Somebody strike a light, my thumbs out of joint," said one of the men, Parsons, a swarthy, saturnine man, boat-steerer in Standishs boat, in which Harrison was puller. "Youll find it knockin about by the bitts," Leach said, sitting down on the edge of the bunk in which I was concealed. There was a fumbling and a scratching of matches, and the sea-lamp flared up, dim and smoky, and in its weird light bare-legged men moved about nursing their bruises and caring for their hurts. Oofty-Oofty laid hold of Parsonss thumb, pulling it out stoutly and snapping it back into place. I noticed at the same time that the Kanakas knuckles were laid open clear across and to the bone. He exhibited them, exposing beautiful white teeth in a grin as he did so, and explaining that the wounds had come from striking Wolf Larsen in the mouth. "So it was you, was it, you black beggar?" belligerently demanded one Kelly, an Irish-American and a longshoreman, making his first trip to sea, and boat-puller for Kerfoot. As he made the demand he spat out a mouthful of blood and teeth and shoved his pugnacious face close to Oofty-Oofty. The Kanaka leaped backward to his bunk, to return with a second leap, flourishing a long knife. "Aw, go lay down, you make

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