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The Sea Wolf 79







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Books:

Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf




Wolf Larsens turn to be puzzled. The name and its magic signified nothing to him. I was proud that it did mean something to me, and for the first time in a weary while I was convincingly conscious of a superiority over him. "I remember writing a review of a thin little volume--" I had begun carelessly, when she interrupted me. "You!" she cried. "You are--" She was now staring at me in wide-eyed wonder. I nodded my identity, in turn. "Humphrey Van Weyden," she concluded; then added with a sigh of relief, and unaware that she had glanced that relief at Wolf Larsen, "I am so glad." "I remember the review," she went on hastily, becoming aware of the awkwardness of her remark; "that too, too flattering review." "Not at all," I denied valiantly. "You impeach my sober judgment and make my canons of little worth. Besides, all my brother critics were with me. Didnt Lang include your Kiss Endured among the four supreme sonnets by women in the English language?" "But you called me the American Mrs. Meynell!" "Was it not true?" I demanded. "No, not that," she answered. "I was hurt." "We can measure the unknown only by the known," I replied, in my finest academic manner. "As a critic I was compelled to place you. You have now become a yardstick yourself. Seven of your thin little volumes are on my shelves; and there are two thicker volumes, the essays, which, you will pardon my saying, and I know not which is flattered more, fully equal your verse. The time is not far distant when some unknown will arise in England and the critics will name her the English Maud Brewster." "You are very kind, I am sure," she murmured; and the very conventionality of her tones and words, with the host of associations it aroused of the old life on the other side of the world, gave me a quick thrill--rich with remembrance but stinging sharp with home-sickness. "And you are Maud Brewster," I said solemnly, gazing across at her. "And you are Humphrey Van Weyden," she said, gazing back at me with equal solemnity and awe. "How unusual! I dont understand. We surely are not to expect some wildly romantic sea-story from your sober pen." "No, I am not gathering material, I assure you," was my answer. "I have neither aptitude nor inclination for fiction." "Tell me, why have you always buried yourself in California?" she next asked. "It has not been kind of you. We of the East have seen to very little of you--too little, indeed, of the Dean of American Letters, the Second." I bowed to, and disclaimed, the compliment. "I nearly met you, once, in Philadelphia, some Browning affair or other--you were to lecture, you know. My train was four hours late." And then we quite forgot where we were, leaving Wolf Larsen stranded and silent in the midst of our flood of gossip. The hunters left the table and went on deck, and still we talked. Wolf Larsen alone remained. Suddenly I became aware of him, leaning back from the table and listening curiously to our alien speech of a world he did not know. I broke short off in the middle of a sentence. The present, with all its perils and anxieties, rushed upon me with stunning force. It smote Miss Brewster likewise, a vague and nameless terror rushing into her eyes as she regarded Wolf Larsen. He rose to his feet and laughed awkwardly. The sound of it was metallic. "Oh, dont mind me," he said, with a self-depreciatory wave of his hand. "I dont count. Go on, go on, I pray you." But the gates of speech were closed, and we, too, rose from the table and laughed awkwardly.

CHAPTER XXI

The chagrin Wolf Larsen felt from being ignored by Maud Brewster and me in the conversation at table had to express itself in some fashion, and it fell to Thomas Mugridge to be the victim. He had not mended his ways nor his shirt, though the latter he contended he had changed. The garment itself did not bear out the assertion, nor did the accumulations of grease on stove and pot and pan attest a general cleanliness. "Ive given you warning, Cooky," Wolf Larsen said, "and now youve got to take your medicine." Mugridges face turned white under its sooty veneer, and when Wolf Larsen called for a rope and

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