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The Sea Wolf 91







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The Sea Wolf




line. "Down that flying jib, Mr. Van Weyden," Wolf Larsen commanded. "And stand by to back over the jibs." I ran forward and had the downhaul of the flying jib all in and fast as we slipped by the boat a hundred feet to leeward. The three men in it gazed at us suspiciously. They had been hogging the sea, and they knew Wolf Larsen, by reputation at any rate. I noted that the hunter, a huge Scandinavian sitting in the bow, held his rifle, ready to hand, across his knees. It should have been in its proper place in the rack. When they came opposite our stern, Wolf Larsen greeted them with a wave of the hand, and cried: "Come on board and have a gam!" "To gam," among the sealing-schooners, is a substitute for the verbs "to visit," "to gossip." It expresses the garrulity of the sea, and is a pleasant break in the monotony of the life. The Ghost swung around into the wind, and I finished my work forward in time to run aft and lend a hand with the mainsheet. "You will please stay on deck, Miss Brewster," Wolf Larsen said, as he started forward to meet his guest. "And you too, Mr. Van Weyden." The boat had lowered its sail and run alongside. The hunter, golden bearded like a sea-king, came over the rail and dropped on deck. But his hugeness could not quite overcome his apprehensiveness. Doubt and distrust showed strongly in his face. It was a transparent face, for all of its hairy shield, and advertised instant relief when he glanced from Wolf Larsen to me, noted that there was only the pair of us, and then glanced over his own two men who had joined him. Surely he had little reason to be afraid. He towered like a Goliath above Wolf Larsen. He must have measured six feet eight or nine inches in stature, and I subsequently learned his weight--240 pounds. And there was no fat about him. It was all bone and muscle. A return of apprehension was apparent when, at the top of the companion-way, Wolf Larsen invited him below. But he reassured himself with a glance down at his host--a big man himself but dwarfed by the propinquity of the giant. So all hesitancy vanished, and the pair descended into the cabin. In the meantime, his two men, as was the wont of visiting sailors, had gone forward into the forecastle to do some visiting themselves. Suddenly, from the cabin came a great, choking bellow, followed by all the sounds of a furious struggle. It was the leopard and the lion, and the lion made all the noise. Wolf Larsen was the leopard. "You see the sacredness of our hospitality," I said bitterly to Maud Brewster. She nodded her head that she heard, and I noted in her face the signs of the same sickness at sight or sound of violent struggle from which I had suffered so severely during my first weeks on the Ghost. "Wouldnt it be better if you went forward, say by the steerage companion-way, until it is over?" I suggested. She shook her head and gazed at me pitifully. She was not frightened, but appalled, rather, at the human animality of it. "You will understand," I took advantage of the opportunity to say, "whatever part I take in what is going on and what is to come, that I am compelled to take it--if you and I are ever to get out of this scrape with our lives." "It is not nice--for me," I added. "I understand," she said, in a weak, far-away voice, and her eyes showed me that she did understand. The sounds from below soon died away. Then Wolf Larsen came alone on deck. There was a slight flush under his bronze, but otherwise he bore no signs of the battle. "Send those two men aft, Mr. Van Weyden," he said. I obeyed, and a minute or two later they stood before him. "Hoist in your boat," he said to them. "Your hunters decided to stay aboard awhile and doesnt want it pounding alongside." "Hoist in your boat, I said," he repeated, this time in sharper tones as they hesitated to do his bidding. "Who knows? you may have to sail with me for a time," he said, quite softly, with a silken threat that belied the softness, as they moved slowly to comply, "and we

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