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The Sea Wolf 73







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The Sea Wolf




wet our gills an no more." "Too bad we sighted them," I said, as the Ghosts bow was flung off a point by a large sea and the boat leaped for a moment past the jibs and into our line of vision. Louis gave a spoke and temporized. "Theyd never iv made the land, sir, Im thinkin." "Think not?" I queried. "No, sir. Did you feel that?" (A puff had caught the schooner, and he was forced to put the wheel up rapidly to keep her out of the wind.) "Tis no egg-shellll float on this sea an hour come, an its a stroke iv luck for them were here to pick em up." Wolf Larsen strode aft from amidships, where he had been talking with the rescued men. The cat-like springiness in his tread was a little more pronounced than usual, and his eyes were bright and snappy. "Three oilers and a fourth engineer," was his greeting. "But well make sailors out of them, or boat-pullers at any rate. Now, what of the lady?" I know not why, but I was aware of a twinge or pang like the cut of a knife when he mentioned her. I thought it a certain silly fastidiousness on my part, but it persisted in spite of me, and I merely shrugged my shoulders in answer. Wolf Larsen pursed his lips in a long, quizzical whistle. "Whats her name, then?" he demanded. "I dont know," I replied. "She is asleep. She was very tired. In fact, I am waiting to hear the news from you. What vessel was it?" "Mail steamer," he answered shortly. "The City of Tokio, from Frisco, bound for Yokohama. Disabled in that typhoon. Old tub. Opened up top and bottom like a sieve. They were adrift four days. And you dont know who or what she is, eh?--maid, wife, or widow? Well, well." He shook his head in a bantering way, and regarded me with laughing eyes. "Are you--" I began. It was on the verge of my tongue to ask if he were going to take the castaways into Yokohama. "Am I what?" he asked. "What do you intend doing with Leach and Johnson?" He shook his head. "Really, Hump, I dont know. You see, with these additions Ive about all the crew I want." "And theyve about all the escaping they want," I said. "Why not give them a change of treatment? Take them aboard, and deal gently with them. Whatever they have done they have been hounded into doing." "By me?" "By you," I answered steadily. "And I give you warning, Wolf Larsen, that I may forget love of my own life in the desire to kill you if you go too far in maltreating those poor wretches." "Bravo!" he cried. "You do me proud, Hump! Youve found your legs with a vengeance. Youre quite an individual. You were unfortunate in having your life cast in easy places, but youre developing, and I like you the better for it." His voice and expression changed. His face was serious. "Do you believe in promises?" he asked. "Are they sacred things?" "Of course," I answered. "Then heres a compact," he went on, consummate actor. "If I promise not to lay my hands upon Leach will you promise, in turn, not to attempt to kill me?" "Oh, not that Im afraid of you, not that Im afraid of you," he hastened to add. I could hardly believe my ears. What was coming over the man? "Is it a go?" he asked impatiently. "A go," I answered. His hand went out to mine, and as I shook it heartily I could have sworn I saw the mocking devil shine up for a moment in his eyes. We strolled across the poop to the lee side. The boat was close at hand now, and in desperate plight. Johnson was steering, Leach bailing. We overhauled them about two feet to their one. Wolf Larsen motioned Louis to keep off slightly, and we dashed abreast of the boat, not a score of feet to windward. The Ghost blanketed it. The spritsail flapped emptily and the boat righted to an even keel, causing the two men swiftly to change position. The boat lost headway, and, as we lifted on a huge surge, toppled and fell into the trough. It was at this moment that Leach and Johnson looked up into the faces

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