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The Sea Wolf 77







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The Sea Wolf




eyes flash with indignation, and this time it was I who dropped mine, while I felt my face flushing under her gaze. It was cowardly, but what else could I do? "Mr. Van Weyden speaks with the voice of authority," Wolf Larsen laughed. I nodded my head, and she, having recovered herself, waited expectantly. "Not that he is much to speak of now," Wolf Larsen went on, "but he has improved wonderfully. You should have seen him when he came on board. A more scrawny, pitiful specimen of humanity one could hardly conceive. Isnt that so, Kerfoot?" Kerfoot, thus directly addressed, was startled into dropping his knife on the floor, though he managed to grunt affirmation. "Developed himself by peeling potatoes and washing dishes. Eh, Kerfoot?" Again that worthy grunted. "Look at him now. True, he is not what you would term muscular, but still he has muscles, which is more than he had when he came aboard. Also, he has legs to stand on. You would not think so to look at him, but he was quite unable to stand alone at first." The hunters were snickering, but she looked at me with a sympathy in her eyes which more than compensated for Wolf Larsens nastiness. In truth, it had been so long since I had received sympathy that I was softened, and I became then, and gladly, her willing slave. But I was angry with Wolf Larsen. He was challenging my manhood with his slurs, challenging the very legs he claimed to be instrumental in getting for me. "I may have learned to stand on my own legs," I retorted. "But I have yet to stamp upon others with them." He looked at me insolently. "Your education is only half completed, then," he said dryly, and turned to her. "We are very hospitable upon the Ghost. Mr. Van Weyden has discovered that. We do everything to make our guests feel at home, eh, Mr. Van Weyden?" "Even to the peeling of potatoes and the washing of dishes," I answered, "to say nothing to wringing their necks out of very fellowship." "I beg of you not to receive false impressions of us from Mr. Van Weyden," he interposed with mock anxiety. "You will observe, Miss Brewster, that he carries a dirk in his belt, a--ahem--a most unusual thing for a ships officer to do. While really very estimable, Mr. Van Weyden is sometimes--how shall I say?--er-- quarrelsome, and harsh measures are necessary. He is quite reasonable and fair in his calm moments, and as he is calm now he will not deny that only yesterday he threatened my life." I was well-nigh choking, and my eyes were certainly fiery. He drew attention to me. "Look at him now. He can scarcely control himself in your presence. He is not accustomed to the presence of ladies anyway. I shall have to arm myself before I dare go on deck with him." He shook his head sadly, murmuring, "Too bad, too bad," while the hunters burst into guffaws of laughter. The deep-sea voices of these men, rumbling and bellowing in the confined space, produced a wild effect. The whole setting was wild, and for the first time, regarding this strange woman and realizing how incongruous she was in it, I was aware of how much a part of it I was myself. I knew these men and their mental processes, was one of them myself, living the seal-hunting life, eating the seal-hunting fare, thinking, largely, the seal-hunting thoughts. There was for me no strangeness to it, to the rough clothes, the coarse faces, the wild laughter, and the lurching cabin walls and swaying sea-lamps. As I buttered a piece of bread my eyes chanced to rest upon my hand. The knuckles were skinned and inflamed clear across, the fingers swollen, the nails rimmed with black. I felt the mattress- like growth of beard on my neck, knew that the sleeve of my coat was ripped, that a button was missing from the throat of the blue shirt I wore. The dirk mentioned by Wolf Larsen rested in its sheath on my hip. It was very natural that it should be there,-- how natural I had not imagined until now, when I looked upon it with her eyes and knew how strange it and all that went with it must appear to her. But she divined the mockery in Wolf Larsens words, and again favoured me with

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