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The Sea Wolf 98

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

a discussion on love. As usual, his was the sheer materialistic side, and Mauds was the idealistic. For myself, beyond a word or so of suggestion or correction now and again, I took no part. He was brilliant, but so was Maud, and for some time I lost the thread of the conversation through studying her face as she talked. It was a face that rarely displayed colour, but to-night it was flushed and vivacious. Her wit was playing keenly, and she was enjoying the tilt as much as Wolf Larsen, and he was enjoying it hugely. For some reason, though I know not why in the argument, so utterly had I lost it in the contemplation of one stray brown lock of Mauds hair, he quoted from Iseult at Tintagel, where she says: "Blessed am I beyond women even herein, That beyond all born women is my sin, And perfect my transgression." As he had read pessimism into Omar, so now he read triumph, stinging triumph and exultation, into Swinburnes lines. And he read rightly, and he read well. He had hardly ceased reading when Louis put his head into the companion-way and whispered down: "Be easy, will ye? The fogs lifted, an tis the port light iv a steamer thats crossin our bow this blessed minute." Wolf Larsen sprang on deck, and so swiftly that by the time we followed him he had pulled the steerage-slide over the drunken clamour and was on his way forward to close the forecastle-scuttle. The fog, though it remained, had lifted high, where it obscured the stars and made the night quite black. Directly ahead of us I could see a bright red light and a white light, and I could hear the pulsing of a steamers engines. Beyond a doubt it was the Macedonia. Wolf Larsen had returned to the poop, and we stood in a silent group, watching the lights rapidly cross our bow. "Lucky for me he doesnt carry a searchlight," Wolf Larsen said. "What if I should cry out loudly?" I queried in a whisper. "It would be all up," he answered. "But have you thought upon what would immediately happen?" Before I had time to express any desire to know, he had me by the throat with his gorilla grip, and by a faint quiver of the muscles- -a hint, as it were--he suggested to me the twist that would surely have broken my neck. The next moment he had released me and we were gazing at the Macedonias lights. "What if I should cry out?" Maud asked. "I like you too well to hurt you," he said softly--nay, there was a tenderness and a caress in his voice that made me wince. "But dont do it, just the same, for Id promptly break Mr. Van Weydens neck." "Then she has my permission to cry out," I said defiantly. "I hardly think youll care to sacrifice the Dean of American Letters the Second," he sneered. We spoke no more, though we had become too used to one another for the silence to be awkward; and when the red light and the white had disappeared we returned to the cabin to finish the interrupted supper. Again they fell to quoting, and Maud gave Dowsons "Impenitentia Ultima." She rendered it beautifully, but I watched not her, but Wolf Larsen. I was fascinated by the fascinated look he bent upon Maud. He was quite out of himself, and I noticed the unconscious movement of his lips as he shaped word for word as fast as she uttered them. He interrupted her when she gave the lines: "And her eyes should be my light while the sun went out behind me, And the viols in her voice be the last sound in my ear." "There are viols in your voice," he said bluntly, and his eyes flashed their golden light. I could have shouted with joy at her control. She finished the concluding stanza without faltering and then slowly guided the conversation into less perilous channels. And all the while I sat in a half-daze, the drunken riot of the steerage breaking through the bulkhead, the man I feared and the woman I loved talking on and on. The table was not cleared. The man who had taken Mugridges place had evidently joined his comrades in the forecastle. If ever Wolf Larsen attained the summit of living, he attained it then. From time to time I forsook my own thoughts to

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