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The Sea Wolf 63







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Martin Eden

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The Sea Wolf




but running aloft to the crosstrees and swinging my whole weight by my arms when I left the ratlines and climbed still higher, was more difficult. This, too, I learned, and quickly, for I felt somehow a wild desire to vindicate myself in Wolf Larsens eyes, to prove my right to live in ways other than of the mind. Nay, the time came when I took joy in the run of the masthead and in the clinging on by my legs at that precarious height while I swept the sea with glasses in search of the boats. I remember one beautiful day, when the boats left early and the reports of the hunters guns grew dim and distant and died away as they scattered far and wide over the sea. There was just the faintest wind from the westward; but it breathed its last by the time we managed to get to leeward of the last lee boat. One by one--I was at the masthead and saw--the six boats disappeared over the bulge of the earth as they followed the seal into the west. We lay, scarcely rolling on the placid sea, unable to follow. Wolf Larsen was apprehensive. The barometer was down, and the sky to the east did not please him. He studied it with unceasing vigilance. "If she comes out of there," he said, "hard and snappy, putting us to windward of the boats, its likely therell be empty bunks in steerage and focsle." By eleven oclock the sea had become glass. By midday, though we were well up in the northerly latitudes, the heat was sickening. There was no freshness in the air. It was sultry and oppressive, reminding me of what the old Californians term "earthquake weather." There was something ominous about it, and in intangible ways one was made to feel that the worst was about to come. Slowly the whole eastern sky filled with clouds that over-towered us like some black sierra of the infernal regions. So clearly could one see canon, gorge, and precipice, and the shadows that lie therein, that one looked unconsciously for the white surf-line and bellowing caverns where the sea charges on the land. And still we rocked gently, and there was no wind. "Its no square" Wolf Larsen said. "Old Mother Natures going to get up on her hind legs and howl for all thats in her, and itll keep us jumping, Hump, to pull through with half our boats. Youd better run up and loosen the topsails." "But if it is going to howl, and there are only two of us?" I asked, a note of protest in my voice. "Why weve got to make the best of the first of it and run down to our boats before our canvas is ripped out of us. After that I dont give a rap what happens. The sticks ll stand it, and you and I will have to, though weve plenty cut out for us." Still the calm continued. We ate dinner, a hurried and anxious meal for me with eighteen men abroad on the sea and beyond the bulge of the earth, and with that heaven-rolling mountain range of clouds moving slowly down upon us. Wolf Larsen did not seem affected, however; though I noticed, when we returned to the deck, a slight twitching of the nostrils, a perceptible quickness of movement. His face was stern, the lines of it had grown hard, and yet in his eyes--blue, clear blue this day--there was a strange brilliancy, a bright scintillating light. It struck me that he was joyous, in a ferocious sort of way; that he was glad there was an impending struggle; that he was thrilled and upborne with knowledge that one of the great moments of living, when the tide of life surges up in flood, was upon him. Once, and unwitting that he did so or that I saw, he laughed aloud, mockingly and defiantly, at the advancing storm. I see him yet standing there like a pigmy out of the Arabian Nights before the huge front of some malignant genie. He was daring destiny, and he was unafraid. He walked to the galley. "Cooky, by the time youve finished pots and pans youll be wanted on deck. Stand ready for a call." "Hump," he said, becoming cognizant of the fascinated gaze I bent upon him, "this beats whisky and is where your Omar

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