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The Sea Wolf 57







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The Sea Wolf




sneak! Ill shut yer mouth!" "Let him go," Leach commanded. "Not on yer life," was the angry retort. Leach never changed his position on the edge of the bunk. "Let him go, I say," he repeated; but this time his voice was gritty and metallic. The Irishman wavered. I made to step by him, and he stood aside. When I had gained the ladder, I turned to the circle of brutal and malignant faces peering at me through the semi-darkness. A sudden and deep sympathy welled up in me. I remembered the Cockneys way of putting it. How God must have hated them that they should be tortured so! "I have seen and heard nothing, believe me," I said quietly. "I tell yer, hes all right," I could hear Leach saying as I went up the ladder. "He dont like the old man no more nor you or me." I found Wolf Larsen in the cabin, stripped and bloody, waiting for me. He greeted me with one of his whimsical smiles. "Come, get to work, Doctor. The signs are favourable for an extensive practice this voyage. I dont know what the Ghost would have been without you, and if I could only cherish such noble sentiments I would tell you her master is deeply grateful." I knew the run of the simple medicine-chest the Ghost carried, and while I was heating water on the cabin stove and getting the things ready for dressing his wounds, he moved about, laughing and chatting, and examining his hurts with a calculating eye. I had never before seen him stripped, and the sight of his body quite took my breath away. It has never been my weakness to exalt the flesh--far from it; but there is enough of the artist in me to appreciate its wonder. I must say that I was fascinated by the perfect lines of Wolf Larsens figure, and by what I may term the terrible beauty of it. I had noted the men in the forecastle. Powerfully muscled though some of them were, there had been something wrong with all of them, an insufficient development here, an undue development there, a twist or a crook that destroyed symmetry, legs too short or too long, or too much sinew or bone exposed, or too little. Oofty- Oofty had been the only one whose lines were at all pleasing, while, in so far as they pleased, that far had they been what I should call feminine. But Wolf Larsen was the man-type, the masculine, and almost a god in his perfectness. As he moved about or raised his arms the great muscles leapt and moved under the satiny skin. I have forgotten to say that the bronze ended with his face. His body, thanks to his Scandinavian stock, was fair as the fairest womans. I remember his putting his hand up to feel of the wound on his head, and my watching the biceps move like a living thing under its white sheath. It was the biceps that had nearly crushed out my life once, that I had seen strike so many killing blows. I could not take my eyes from him. I stood motionless, a roll of antiseptic cotton in my hand unwinding and spilling itself down to the floor. He noticed me, and I became conscious that I was staring at him. "God made you well," I said. "Did he?" he answered. "I have often thought so myself, and wondered why." "Purpose--" I began. "Utility," he interrupted. "This body was made for use. These muscles were made to grip, and tear, and destroy living things that get between me and life. But have you thought of the other living things? They, too, have muscles, of one kind and another, made to grip, and tear, and destroy; and when they come between me and life, I out-grip them, out-tear them, out-destroy them. Purpose does not explain that. Utility does." "It is not beautiful," I protested. "Life isnt, you mean," he smiled. "Yet you say I was made well. Do you see this?" He braced his legs and feet, pressing the cabin floor with his toes in a clutching sort of way. Knots and ridges and mounds of muscles writhed and bunched under the skin. "Feel them," he commanded. They were hard as iron. And I observed, also, that his whole body had unconsciously drawn itself together, tense and alert; that muscles

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