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The Sea Wolf 86







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The Sea Wolf




world of women, seeking you." And then I had ceased seeking. It was not for me, this greatest thing in the world, I had decided. Furuseth was right; I was abnormal, an "emotionless monster," a strange bookish creature, capable of pleasuring in sensations only of the mind. And though I had been surrounded by women all my days, my appreciation of them had been aesthetic and nothing more. I had actually, at times, considered myself outside the pale, a monkish fellow denied the eternal or the passing passions I saw and understood so well in others. And now it had come! Undreamed of and unheralded, it had come. In what could have been no less than an ecstasy, I left my post at the head of the companion-way and started along the deck, murmuring to myself those beautiful lines of Mrs. Browning: "I lived with visions for my company Instead of men and women years ago, And found them gentle mates, nor thought to know A sweeter music than they played to me." But the sweeter music was playing in my ears, and I was blind and oblivious to all about me. The sharp voice of Wolf Larsen aroused me. "What the hell are you up to?" he was demanding. I had strayed forward where the sailors were painting, and I came to myself to find my advancing foot on the verge of overturning a paint-pot. "Sleep-walking, sunstroke,--what?" he barked. "No; indigestion," I retorted, and continued my walk as if nothing untoward had occurred.

CHAPTER XXIV

Among the most vivid memories of my life are those of the events on the Ghost which occurred during the forty hours succeeding the discovery of my love for Maud Brewster. I, who had lived my life in quiet places, only to enter at the age of thirty-five upon a course of the most irrational adventure I could have imagined, never had more incident and excitement crammed into any forty hours of my experience. Nor can I quite close my ears to a small voice of pride which tells me I did not do so badly, all things considered. To begin with, at the midday dinner, Wolf Larsen informed the hunters that they were to eat thenceforth in the steerage. It was an unprecedented thing on sealing-schooners, where it is the custom for the hunters to rank, unofficially as officers. He gave no reason, but his motive was obvious enough. Horner and Smoke had been displaying a gallantry toward Maud Brewster, ludicrous in itself and inoffensive to her, but to him evidently distasteful. The announcement was received with black silence, though the other four hunters glanced significantly at the two who had been the cause of their banishment. Jock Horner, quiet as was his way, gave no sign; but the blood surged darkly across Smokes forehead, and he half opened his mouth to speak. Wolf Larsen was watching him, waiting for him, the steely glitter in his eyes; but Smoke closed his mouth again without having said anything. "Anything to say?" the other demanded aggressively. It was a challenge, but Smoke refused to accept it. "About what?" he asked, so innocently that Wolf Larsen was disconcerted, while the others smiled. "Oh, nothing," Wolf Larsen said lamely. "I just thought you might want to register a kick." "About what?" asked the imperturbable Smoke. Smokes mates were now smiling broadly. His captain could have killed him, and I doubt not that blood would have flowed had not Maud Brewster been present. For that matter, it was her presence which enabled. Smoke to act as he did. He was too discreet and cautious a man to incur Wolf Larsens anger at a time when that anger could be expressed in terms stronger than words. I was in fear that a struggle might take place, but a cry from the helmsman made it easy for the situation to save itself. "Smoke ho!" the cry came down the open companion-way. "Hows it bear?" Wolf Larsen called up. "Dead astern, sir." "Maybe its a Russian," suggested Latimer. His words brought anxiety into the faces of the other hunters. A Russian could mean but one thing--a cruiser. The hunters, never more than roughly aware of the position of the ship, nevertheless knew that we were close to the boundaries of the forbidden sea, while Wolf Larsens record as a poacher was notorious. All eyes centred upon him. "Were dead safe," he assured them with a laugh. "No salt

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