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The Sea Wolf 89







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The Sea Wolf




and contrary to reason; but in the face of them my reason tells me, wrong and most wrong, that to dream and live illusions gives greater delight. And after all, delight is the wage for living. Without delight, living is a worthless act. To labour at living and be unpaid is worse than to be dead. He who delights the most lives the most, and your dreams and unrealities are less disturbing to you and more gratifying than are my facts to me." He shook his head slowly, pondering. "I often doubt, I often doubt, the worthwhileness of reason. Dreams must be more substantial and satisfying. Emotional delight is more filling and lasting than intellectual delight; and, besides, you pay for your moments of intellectual delight by having the blues. Emotional delight is followed by no more than jaded senses which speedily recuperate. I envy you, I envy you." He stopped abruptly, and then on his lips formed one of his strange quizzical smiles, as he added: "Its from my brain I envy you, take notice, and not from my heart. My reason dictates it. The envy is an intellectual product. I am like a sober man looking upon drunken men, and, greatly weary, wishing he, too, were drunk." "Or like a wise man looking upon fools and wishing he, too, were a fool," I laughed. "Quite so," he said. "You are a blessed, bankrupt pair of fools. You have no facts in your pocketbook." "Yet we spend as freely as you," was Maud Brewsters contribution. "More freely, because it costs you nothing." "And because we draw upon eternity," she retorted. "Whether you do or think you do, its the same thing. You spend what you havent got, and in return you get greater value from spending what you havent got than I get from spending what I have got, and what I have sweated to get." "Why dont you change the basis of your coinage, then?" she queried teasingly. He looked at her quickly, half-hopefully, and then said, all regretfully: "Too late. Id like to, perhaps, but I cant. My pocketbook is stuffed with the old coinage, and its a stubborn thing. I can never bring myself to recognize anything else as valid." He ceased speaking, and his gaze wandered absently past her and became lost in the placid sea. The old primal melancholy was strong upon him. He was quivering to it. He had reasoned himself into a spell of the blues, and within few hours one could look for the devil within him to be up and stirring. I remembered Charley Furuseth, and knew this mans sadness as the penalty which the materialist ever pays for his materialism.

CHAPTER XXV

"Youve been on deck, Mr. Van Weyden," Wolf Larsen said, the following morning at the breakfast-table, "How do things look?" "Clear enough," I answered, glancing at the sunshine which streamed down the open companion-way. "Fair westerly breeze, with a promise of stiffening, if Louis predicts correctly." He nodded his head in a pleased way. "Any signs of fog?" "Thick banks in the north and north-west." He nodded his head again, evincing even greater satisfaction than before. "What of the Macedonia?" "Not sighted," I answered. I could have sworn his face fell at the intelligence, but why he should be disappointed I could not conceive. I was soon to learn. "Smoke ho!" came the hail from on deck, and his face brightened. "Good!" he exclaimed, and left the table at once to go on deck and into the steerage, where the hunters were taking the first breakfast of their exile. Maud Brewster and I scarcely touched the food before us, gazing, instead, in silent anxiety at each other, and listening to Wolf Larsens voice, which easily penetrated the cabin through the intervening bulkhead. He spoke at length, and his conclusion was greeted with a wild roar of cheers. The bulkhead was too thick for us to hear what he said; but whatever it was it affected the hunters strongly, for the cheering was followed by loud exclamations and shouts of joy. From the sounds on deck I knew that the sailors had been routed out and were preparing to lower the boats. Maud Brewster accompanied me on deck, but I left her at the break of the poop, where she might watch the scene and not be in it. The sailors must have learned whatever project was on hand, and the vim and snap they

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