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The Sea Wolf 78

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

a sympathetic glance. But there was a look of bewilderment also in her eyes. That it was mockery made the situation more puzzling to her. "I may be taken off by some passing vessel, perhaps," she suggested. "There will be no passing vessels, except other sealing-schooners," Wolf Larsen made answer. "I have no clothes, nothing," she objected. "You hardly realize, sir, that I am not a man, or that I am unaccustomed to the vagrant, careless life which you and your men seem to lead." "The sooner you get accustomed to it, the better," he said. "Ill furnish you with cloth, needles, and thread," he added. "I hope it will not be too dreadful a hardship for you to make yourself a dress or two." She made a wry pucker with her mouth, as though to advertise her ignorance of dressmaking. That she was frightened and bewildered, and that she was bravely striving to hide it, was quite plain to me. "I suppose youre like Mr. Van Weyden there, accustomed to having things done for you. Well, I think doing a few things for yourself will hardly dislocate any joints. By the way, what do you do for a living?" She regarded him with amazement unconcealed. "I mean no offence, believe me. People eat, therefore they must procure the wherewithal. These men here shoot seals in order to live; for the same reason I sail this schooner; and Mr. Van Weyden, for the present at any rate, earns his salty grub by assisting me. Now what do you do?" She shrugged her shoulders. "Do you feed yourself? Or does some one else feed you?" "Im afraid some one else has fed me most of my life," she laughed, trying bravely to enter into the spirit of his quizzing, though I could see a terror dawning and growing in her eyes as she watched Wolf Larsen. "And I suppose some one else makes your bed for you?" "I HAVE made beds," she replied. "Very often?" She shook her head with mock ruefulness. "Do you know what they do to poor men in the States, who, like you, do not work for their living?" "I am very ignorant," she pleaded. "What do they do to the poor men who are like me?" "They send them to jail. The crime of not earning a living, in their case, is called vagrancy. If I were Mr. Van Weyden, who harps eternally on questions of right and wrong, Id ask, by what right do you live when you do nothing to deserve living?" "But as you are not Mr. Van Weyden, I dont have to answer, do I?" She beamed upon him through her terror-filled eyes, and the pathos of it cut me to the heart. I must in some way break in and lead the conversation into other channels. "Have you ever earned a dollar by your own labour?" he demanded, certain of her answer, a triumphant vindictiveness in his voice. "Yes, I have," she answered slowly, and I could have laughed aloud at his crestfallen visage. "I remember my father giving me a dollar once, when I was a little girl, for remaining absolutely quiet for five minutes." He smiled indulgently. "But that was long ago," she continued. "And you would scarcely demand a little girl of nine to earn her own living." "At present, however," she said, after another slight pause, "I earn about eighteen hundred dollars a year." With one accord, all eyes left the plates and settled on her. A woman who earned eighteen hundred dollars a year was worth looking at. Wolf Larsen was undisguised in his admiration. "Salary, or piece-work?" he asked. "Piece-work," she answered promptly. "Eighteen hundred," he calculated. "Thats a hundred and fifty dollars a month. Well, Miss Brewster, there is nothing small about the Ghost. Consider yourself on salary during the time you remain with us." She made no acknowledgment. She was too unused as yet to the whims of the man to accept them with equanimity. "I forgot to inquire," he went on suavely, "as to the nature of your occupation. What commodities do you turn out? What tools and materials do you require?" "Paper and ink," she laughed. "And, oh! also a typewriter." "You are Maud Brewster," I said slowly and with certainty, almost as though I were charging her with a crime. Her eyes lifted curiously to mine. "How do you know?" "Arent you?" I demanded. She acknowledged her identity with a nod. It was

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