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The Sea Wolf 75

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

out iv things. A pretty mess that Frisco whisky got me into, an a prettier mess that womans got you into aft there. Ah, its myself that knows ye for a blitherin fool." "What do you mean?" I demanded; for, having sped his shaft, he was turning away. "What do I mean?" he cried. "And its you that asks me! Tis not what I mean, but what the Wolf ll mean. The Wolf, I said, the Wolf!" "If trouble comes, will you stand by?" I asked impulsively, for he had voiced my own fear. "Stand by? Tis old fat Louis I stand by, an trouble enough itll be. Were at the beginnin iv things, Im tellin ye, the bare beginnin iv things." "I had not thought you so great a coward," I sneered. He favoured me with a contemptuous stare. "If I raised never a hand for that poor fool,"--pointing astern to the tiny sail,--"dye think Im hungerin for a broken head for a woman I never laid me eyes upon before this day?" I turned scornfully away and went aft. "Better get in those topsails, Mr. Van Weyden," Wolf Larsen said, as I came on the poop. I felt relief, at least as far as the two men were concerned. It was clear he did not wish to run too far away from them. I picked up hope at the thought and put the order swiftly into execution. I had scarcely opened my mouth to issue the necessary commands, when eager men were springing to halyards and downhauls, and others were racing aloft. This eagerness on their part was noted by Wolf Larsen with a grim smile. Still we increased our lead, and when the boat had dropped astern several miles we hove to and waited. All eyes watched it coming, even Wolf Larsens; but he was the only unperturbed man aboard. Louis, gazing fixedly, betrayed a trouble in his face he was not quite able to hide. The boat drew closer and closer, hurling along through the seething green like a thing alive, lifting and sending and uptossing across the huge-backed breakers, or disappearing behind them only to rush into sight again and shoot skyward. It seemed impossible that it could continue to live, yet with each dizzying sweep it did achieve the impossible. A rain-squall drove past, and out of the flying wet the boat emerged, almost upon us. "Hard up, there!" Wolf Larsen shouted, himself springing to the wheel and whirling it over. Again the Ghost sprang away and raced before the wind, and for two hours Johnson and Leach pursued us. We hove to and ran away, hove to and ran away, and ever astern the struggling patch of sail tossed skyward and fell into the rushing valleys. It was a quarter of a mile away when a thick squall of rain veiled it from view. It never emerged. The wind blew the air clear again, but no patch of sail broke the troubled surface. I thought I saw, for an instant, the boats bottom show black in a breaking crest. At the best, that was all. For Johnson and Leach the travail of existence had ceased. The men remained grouped amidships. No one had gone below, and no one was speaking. Nor were any looks being exchanged. Each man seemed stunned--deeply contemplative, as it were, and, not quite sure, trying to realize just what had taken place. Wolf Larsen gave them little time for thought. He at once put the Ghost upon her course--a course which meant the seal herd and not Yokohama harbour. But the men were no longer eager as they pulled and hauled, and I heard curses amongst them, which left their lips smothered and as heavy and lifeless as were they. Not so was it with the hunters. Smoke the irrepressible related a story, and they descended into the steerage, bellowing with laughter. As I passed to leeward of the galley on my way aft I was approached by the engineer we had rescued. His face was white, his lips were trembling. "Good God! sir, what kind of a craft is this?" he cried. "You have eyes, you have seen," I answered, almost brutally, what of the pain and fear at my own heart. "Your promise?" I said to Wolf Larsen. "I was not thinking of taking them aboard when I made that promise," he answered. "And anyway, youll agree Ive

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