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The Sea Wolf 9

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

But death in its more sordid and terrible aspects was a thing with which I had been unacquainted till now. As I say, while I appreciated the power of the terrific denunciation that swept out of Wolf Larsens mouth, I was inexpressibly shocked. The scorching torrent was enough to wither the face of the corpse. I should not have been surprised if the wet black beard had frizzled and curled and flared up in smoke and flame. But the dead man was unconcerned. He continued to grin with a sardonic humour, with a cynical mockery and defiance. He was master of the situation.


Wolf Larsen ceased swearing as suddenly as he had begun. He relighted his cigar and glanced around. His eyes chanced upon the cook. "Well, Cooky?" he began, with a suaveness that was cold and of the temper of steel. "Yes, sir," the cook eagerly interpolated, with appeasing and apologetic servility. "Dont you think youve stretched that neck of yours just about enough? Its unhealthy, you know. The mates gone, so I cant afford to lose you too. You must be very, very careful of your health, Cooky. Understand?" His last word, in striking contrast with the smoothness of his previous utterance, snapped like the lash of a whip. The cook quailed under it. "Yes, sir," was the meek reply, as the offending head disappeared into the galley. At this sweeping rebuke, which the cook had only pointed, the rest of the crew became uninterested and fell to work at one task or another. A number of men, however, who were lounging about a companion-way between the galley and hatch, and who did not seem to be sailors, continued talking in low tones with one another. These, I afterward learned, were the hunters, the men who shot the seals, and a very superior breed to common sailor-folk. "Johansen!" Wolf Larsen called out. A sailor stepped forward obediently. "Get your palm and needle and sew the beggar up. Youll find some old canvas in the sail-locker. Make it do." "Whatll I put on his feet, sir?" the man asked, after the customary "Ay, ay, sir." "Well see to that," Wolf Larsen answered, and elevated his voice in a call of "Cooky!" Thomas Mugridge popped out of his galley like a jack-in-the-box. "Go below and fill a sack with coal." "Any of you fellows got a Bible or Prayer-book?" was the captains next demand, this time of the hunters lounging about the companion- way. They shook their heads, and some one made a jocular remark which I did not catch, but which raised a general laugh. Wolf Larsen made the same demand of the sailors. Bibles and Prayer-books seemed scarce articles, but one of the men volunteered to pursue the quest amongst the watch below, returning in a minute with the information that there was none. The captain shrugged his shoulders. "Then well drop him over without any palavering, unless our clerical-looking castaway has the burial service at sea by heart." By this time he had swung fully around and was facing me. "Youre a preacher, arent you?" he asked. The hunters,--there were six of them,--to a man, turned and regarded me. I was painfully aware of my likeness to a scarecrow. A laugh went up at my appearance,--a laugh that was not lessened or softened by the dead man stretched and grinning on the deck before us; a laugh that was as rough and harsh and frank as the sea itself; that arose out of coarse feelings and blunted sensibilities, from natures that knew neither courtesy nor gentleness. Wolf Larsen did not laugh, though his grey eyes lighted with a slight glint of amusement; and in that moment, having stepped forward quite close to him, I received my first impression of the man himself, of the man as apart from his body, and from the torrent of blasphemy I had heard him spew forth. The face, with large features and strong lines, of the square order, yet well filled out, was apparently massive at first sight; but again, as with the body, the massiveness seemed to vanish, and a conviction to grow of a tremendous and excessive mental or spiritual strength that lay behind, sleeping in the deeps of his being. The jaw, the chin, the brow rising to a goodly height and swelling heavily above the eyes,--these, while strong in themselves, unusually strong, seemed to speak an immense vigour or virility of spirit that lay behind and

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