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The Sea Wolf 61







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The Sea Wolf




some time or other, dont you?" A snarl was the answer. "And as for you, Johnson, youll get so tired of life before Im through with you that youll fling yourself over the side. See if you dont." "Thats a suggestion," he added, in an aside to me. "Ill bet you a months pay he acts upon it." I had cherished a hope that his victims would find an opportunity to escape while filling our water-barrels, but Wolf Larsen had selected his spot well. The Ghost lay half-a-mile beyond the surf- line of a lonely beach. Here debauched a deep gorge, with precipitous, volcanic walls which no man could scale. And here, under his direct supervision--for he went ashore himself--Leach and Johnson filled the small casks and rolled them down to the beach. They had no chance to make a break for liberty in one of the boats. Harrison and Kelly, however, made such an attempt. They composed one of the boats crews, and their task was to ply between the schooner and the shore, carrying a single cask each trip. Just before dinner, starting for the beach with an empty barrel, they altered their course and bore away to the left to round the promontory which jutted into the sea between them and liberty. Beyond its foaming base lay the pretty villages of the Japanese colonists and smiling valleys which penetrated deep into the interior. Once in the fastnesses they promised, and the two men could defy Wolf Larsen. I had observed Henderson and Smoke loitering about the deck all morning, and I now learned why they were there. Procuring their rifles, they opened fire in a leisurely manner, upon the deserters. It was a cold-blooded exhibition of marksmanship. At first their bullets zipped harmlessly along the surface of the water on either side the boat; but, as the men continued to pull lustily, they struck closer and closer. "Now, watch me take Kellys right oar," Smoke said, drawing a more careful aim. I was looking through the glasses, and I saw the oar-blade shatter as he shot. Henderson duplicated it, selecting Harrisons right oar. The boat slewed around. The two remaining oars were quickly broken. The men tried to row with the splinters, and had them shot out of their hands. Kelly ripped up a bottom board and began paddling, but dropped it with a cry of pain as its splinters drove into his hands. Then they gave up, letting the boat drift till a second boat, sent from the shore by Wolf Larsen, took them in tow and brought them aboard. Late that afternoon we hove up anchor and got away. Nothing was before us but the three or four months hunting on the sealing grounds. The outlook was black indeed, and I went about my work with a heavy heart. An almost funereal gloom seemed to have descended upon the Ghost. Wolf Larsen had taken to his bunk with one of his strange, splitting headaches. Harrison stood listlessly at the wheel, half supporting himself by it, as though wearied by the weight of his flesh. The rest of the men were morose and silent. I came upon Kelly crouching to the lee of the forecastle scuttle, his head on his knees, his arms about his head, in an attitude of unutterable despondency. Johnson I found lying full length on the forecastle head, staring at the troubled churn of the forefoot, and I remembered with horror the suggestion Wolf Larsen had made. It seemed likely to bear fruit. I tried to break in on the mans morbid thoughts by calling him away, but he smiled sadly at me and refused to obey. Leach approached me as I returned aft. "I want to ask a favour, Mr. Van Weyden," he said. "If its yer luck to ever make Frisco once more, will you hunt up Matt McCarthy? Hes my old man. He lives on the Hill, back of the Mayfair bakery, runnin a cobblers shop that everybody knows, and youll have no trouble. Tell him I lived to be sorry for the trouble I brought him and the things I done, and--and just tell him God bless him, for me." I nodded my head, but said, "Well all win back to San Francisco, Leach, and youll be with me when I go to see Matt McCarthy." "Id like to believe you," he answered, shaking my hand, "but I cant.

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