The Sea Wolf
Part 5 out of 7
Wolf Larsen took the distribution of the whisky off my hands, and
the bottles began to make their appearance while I worked over the
fresh batch of wounded men in the forecastle. I had seen whisky
drunk, such as whisky-and-soda by the men of the clubs, but never
as these men drank it, from pannikins and mugs, and from the
bottles--great brimming drinks, each one of which was in itself a
debauch. But they did not stop at one or two. They drank and
drank, and ever the bottles slipped forward and they drank more.
Everybody drank; the wounded drank; Oofty-Oofty, who helped me,
drank. Only Louis refrained, no more than cautiously wetting his
lips with the liquor, though he joined in the revels with an
abandon equal to that of most of them. It was a saturnalia. In
loud voices they shouted over the day's fighting, wrangled about
details, or waxed affectionate and made friends with the men whom
they had fought. Prisoners and captors hiccoughed on one another's
shoulders, and swore mighty oaths of respect and esteem. They wept
over the miseries of the past and over the miseries yet to come
under the iron rule of Wolf Larsen. And all cursed him and told
terrible tales of his brutality.
It was a strange and frightful spectacle--the small, bunk-lined
space, the floor and walls leaping and lurching, the dim light, the
swaying shadows lengthening and fore-shortening monstrously, the
thick air heavy with smoke and the smell of bodies and iodoform,
and the inflamed faces of the men--half-men, I should call them. I
noted Oofty-Oofty, holding the end of a bandage and looking upon
the scene, his velvety and luminous eyes glistening in the light
like a deer's eyes, and yet I knew the barbaric devil that lurked
in his breast and belied all the softness and tenderness, almost
womanly, of his face and form. And I noticed the boyish face of
Harrison,--a good face once, but now a demon's,--convulsed with
passion as he told the new-comers of the hell-ship they were in and
shrieked curses upon the head of Wolf Larsen.
Wolf Larsen it was, always Wolf Larsen, enslaver and tormentor of
men, a male Circe and these his swine, suffering brutes that
grovelled before him and revolted only in drunkenness and in
secrecy. And was I, too, one of his swine? I thought. And Maud
Brewster? No! I ground my teeth in my anger and determination
till the man I was attending winced under my hand and Oofty-Oofty
looked at me with curiosity. I felt endowed with a sudden
strength. What of my new-found love, I was a giant. I feared
nothing. I would work my will through it all, in spite of Wolf
Larsen and of my own thirty-five bookish years. All would be well.
I would make it well. And so, exalted, upborne by a sense of
power, I turned my back on the howling inferno and climbed to the
deck, where the fog drifted ghostly through the night and the air
was sweet and pure and quiet.
The steerage, where were two wounded hunters, was a repetition of
the forecastle, except that Wolf Larsen was not being cursed; and
it was with a great relief that I again emerged on deck and went
aft to the cabin. Supper was ready, and Wolf Larsen and Maud were
waiting for me.
While all his ship was getting drunk as fast as it could, he
remained sober. Not a drop of liquor passed his lips. He did not
dare it under the circumstances, for he had only Louis and me to
depend upon, and Louis was even now at the wheel. We were sailing
on through the fog without a look-out and without lights. That
Wolf Larsen had turned the liquor loose among his men surprised me,
but he evidently knew their psychology and the best method of
cementing in cordiality, what had begun in bloodshed.
His victory over Death Larsen seemed to have had a remarkable
effect upon him. The previous evening he had reasoned himself into
the blues, and I had been waiting momentarily for one of his
characteristic outbursts. Yet nothing had occurred, and he was now
in splendid trim. Possibly his success in capturing so many
hunters and boats had counteracted the customary reaction. At any
rate, the blues were gone, and the blue devils had not put in an
appearance. So I thought at the time; but, ah me, little I knew
him or knew that even then, perhaps, he was meditating an outbreak
more terrible than any I had seen.
As I say, he discovered himself in splendid trim when I entered the
cabin. He had had no headaches for weeks, his eyes were clear blue
as the sky, his bronze was beautiful with perfect health; life
swelled through his veins in full and magnificent flood. While
waiting for me he had engaged Maud in animated discussion.
Temptation was the topic they had hit upon, and from the few words
I heard I made out that he was contending that temptation was
temptation only when a man was seduced by it and fell.
"For look you," he was saying, "as I see it, a man does things
because of desire. He has many desires. He may desire to escape
pain, or to enjoy pleasure. But whatever he does, he does because
he desires to do it."
"But suppose he desires to do two opposite things, neither of which
will permit him to do the other?" Maud interrupted.
"The very thing I was coming to," he said.
"And between these two desires is just where the soul of the man is
manifest," she went on. "If it is a good soul, it will desire and
do the good action, and the contrary if it is a bad soul. It is
the soul that decides."
"Bosh and nonsense!" he exclaimed impatiently. "It is the desire
that decides. Here is a man who wants to, say, get drunk. Also,
he doesn't want to get drunk. What does he do? How does he do it?
He is a puppet. He is the creature of his desires, and of the two
desires he obeys the strongest one, that is all. His soul hasn't
anything to do with it. How can he be tempted to get drunk and
refuse to get drunk? If the desire to remain sober prevails, it is
because it is the strongest desire. Temptation plays no part,
unless--" he paused while grasping the new thought which had come
into his mind--"unless he is tempted to remain sober.
"Ha! ha!" he laughed. "What do you think of that, Mr. Van Weyden?"
"That both of you are hair-splitting," I said. "The man's soul is
his desires. Or, if you will, the sum of his desires is his soul.
Therein you are both wrong. You lay the stress upon the desire
apart from the soul, Miss Brewster lays the stress on the soul
apart from the desire, and in point of fact soul and desire are the
"However," I continued, "Miss Brewster is right in contending that
temptation is temptation whether the man yield or overcome. Fire
is fanned by the wind until it leaps up fiercely. So is desire
like fire. It is fanned, as by a wind, by sight of the thing
desired, or by a new and luring description or comprehension of the
thing desired. There lies the temptation. It is the wind that
fans the desire until it leaps up to mastery. That's temptation.
It may not fan sufficiently to make the desire overmastering, but
in so far as it fans at all, that far is it temptation. And, as
you say, it may tempt for good as well as for evil."
I felt proud of myself as we sat down to the table. My words had
been decisive. At least they had put an end to the discussion.
But Wolf Larsen seemed voluble, prone to speech as I had never seen
him before. It was as though he were bursting with pent energy
which must find an outlet somehow. Almost immediately he launched
into a discussion on love. As usual, his was the sheer
materialistic side, and Maud's 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 Maud's 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 Swinburne's 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 fog's lifted, an' 'tis the port light iv a
steamer that's 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 steamer's engines. Beyond a doubt it was the
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 doesn't 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 Macedonia's 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 don't do it, just the same, for I'd promptly break Mr. Van
"Then she has my permission to cry out," I said defiantly.
"I hardly think you'll 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
Again they fell to quoting, and Maud gave Dowson's "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 Mugridge's
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 follow him,
and I followed in amaze, mastered for the moment by his remarkable
intellect, under the spell of his passion, for he was preaching the
passion of revolt. It was inevitable that Milton's Lucifer should
be instanced, and the keenness with which Wolf Larsen analysed and
depicted the character was a revelation of his stifled genius. It
reminded me of Taine, yet I knew the man had never heard of that
brilliant though dangerous thinker.
"He led a lost cause, and he was not afraid of God's thunderbolts,"
Wolf Larsen was saying. "Hurled into hell, he was unbeaten. A
third of God's angels he had led with him, and straightway he
incited man to rebel against God, and gained for himself and hell
the major portion of all the generations of man. Why was he beaten
out of heaven? Because he was less brave than God? less proud?
less aspiring? No! A thousand times no! God was more powerful,
as he said, Whom thunder hath made greater. But Lucifer was a free
spirit. To serve was to suffocate. He preferred suffering in
freedom to all the happiness of a comfortable servility. He did
not care to serve God. He cared to serve nothing. He was no
figure-head. He stood on his own legs. He was an individual."
"The first Anarchist," Maud laughed, rising and preparing to
withdraw to her state-room.
"Then it is good to be an anarchist!" he cried. He, too, had
risen, and he stood facing her, where she had paused at the door of
her room, as he went on:
"'Here at least
We shall be free; the Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy; will not drive us hence;
Here we may reign secure; and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition, though in hell:
Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven."
It was the defiant cry of a mighty spirit. The cabin still rang
with his voice, as he stood there, swaying, his bronzed face
shining, his head up and dominant, and his eyes, golden and
masculine, intensely masculine and insistently soft, flashing upon
Maud at the door.
Again that unnamable and unmistakable terror was in her eyes, and
she said, almost in a whisper, "You are Lucifer."
The door closed and she was gone. He stood staring after her for a
minute, then returned to himself and to me.
"I'll relieve Louis at the wheel," he said shortly, "and call upon
you to relieve at midnight. Better turn in now and get some
He pulled on a pair of mittens, put on his cap, and ascended the
companion-stairs, while I followed his suggestion by going to bed.
For some unknown reason, prompted mysteriously, I did not undress,
but lay down fully clothed. For a time I listened to the clamour
in the steerage and marvelled upon the love which had come to me;
but my sleep on the Ghost had become most healthful and natural,
and soon the songs and cries died away, my eyes closed, and my
consciousness sank down into the half-death of slumber.
I knew not what had aroused me, but I found myself out of my bunk,
on my feet, wide awake, my soul vibrating to the warning of danger
as it might have thrilled to a trumpet call. I threw open the
door. The cabin light was burning low. I saw Maud, my Maud,
straining and struggling and crushed in the embrace of Wolf
Larsen's arms. I could see the vain beat and flutter of her as she
strove, pressing her face against his breast, to escape from him.
All this I saw on the very instant of seeing and as I sprang
I struck him with my fist, on the face, as he raised his head, but
it was a puny blow. He roared in a ferocious, animal-like way, and
gave me a shove with his hand. It was only a shove, a flirt of the
wrist, yet so tremendous was his strength that I was hurled
backward as from a catapult. I struck the door of the state-room
which had formerly been Mugridge's, splintering and smashing the
panels with the impact of my body. I struggled to my feet, with
difficulty dragging myself clear of the wrecked door, unaware of
any hurt whatever. I was conscious only of an overmastering rage.
I think I, too, cried aloud, as I drew the knife at my hip and
sprang forward a second time.
But something had happened. They were reeling apart. I was close
upon him, my knife uplifted, but I withheld the blow. I was
puzzled by the strangeness of it. Maud was leaning against the
wall, one hand out for support; but he was staggering, his left
hand pressed against his forehead and covering his eyes, and with
the right he was groping about him in a dazed sort of way. It
struck against the wall, and his body seemed to express a muscular
and physical relief at the contact, as though he had found his
bearings, his location in space as well as something against which
Then I saw red again. All my wrongs and humiliations flashed upon
me with a dazzling brightness, all that I had suffered and others
had suffered at his hands, all the enormity of the man's very
existence. I sprang upon him, blindly, insanely, and drove the
knife into his shoulder. I knew, then, that it was no more than a
flesh wound,--I had felt the steel grate on his shoulder-blade,--
and I raised the knife to strike at a more vital part.
But Maud had seen my first blow, and she cried, "Don't! Please
I dropped my arm for a moment, and a moment only. Again the knife
was raised, and Wolf Larsen would have surely died had she not
stepped between. Her arms were around me, her hair was brushing my
face. My pulse rushed up in an unwonted manner, yet my rage
mounted with it. She looked me bravely in the eyes.
"For my sake," she begged.
"I would kill him for your sake!" I cried, trying to free my arm
without hurting her.
"Hush!" she said, and laid her fingers lightly on my lips. I could
have kissed them, had I dared, even then, in my rage, the touch of
them was so sweet, so very sweet. "Please, please," she pleaded,
and she disarmed me by the words, as I was to discover they would
ever disarm me.
I stepped back, separating from her, and replaced the knife in its
sheath. I looked at Wolf Larsen. He still pressed his left hand
against his forehead. It covered his eyes. His head was bowed.
He seemed to have grown limp. His body was sagging at the hips,
his great shoulders were drooping and shrinking forward.
"Van, Weyden!" he called hoarsely, and with a note of fright in his
voice. "Oh, Van Weyden! where are you?"
I looked at Maud. She did not speak, but nodded her head.
"Here I am," I answered, stepping to his side. "What is the
"Help me to a seat," he said, in the same hoarse, frightened voice.
"I am a sick man; a very sick man, Hump," he said, as he left my
sustaining grip and sank into a chair.
His head dropped forward on the table and was buried in his hands.
From time to time it rocked back and forward as with pain. Once,
when he half raised it, I saw the sweat standing in heavy drops on
his forehead about the roots of his hair.
"I am a sick man, a very sick man," he repeated again, and yet once
"What is the matter?" I asked, resting my hand on his shoulder.
"What can I do for you?"
But he shook my hand off with an irritated movement, and for a long
time I stood by his side in silence. Maud was looking on, her face
awed and frightened. What had happened to him we could not
"Hump," he said at last, "I must get into my bunk. Lend me a hand.
I'll be all right in a little while. It's those damn headaches, I
believe. I was afraid of them. I had a feeling--no, I don't know
what I'm talking about. Help me into my bunk."
But when I got him into his bunk he again buried his face in his
hands, covering his eyes, and as I turned to go I could hear him
murmuring, "I am a sick man, a very sick man."
Maud looked at me inquiringly as I emerged. I shook my head,
"Something has happened to him. What, I don't know. He is
helpless, and frightened, I imagine, for the first time in his
life. It must have occurred before he received the knife-thrust,
which made only a superficial wound. You must have seen what
She shook her head. "I saw nothing. It is just as mysterious to
me. He suddenly released me and staggered away. But what shall we
do? What shall I do?"
"If you will wait, please, until I come back," I answered.
I went on deck. Louis was at the wheel.
"You may go for'ard and turn in," I said, taking it from him.
He was quick to obey, and I found myself alone on the deck of the
Ghost. As quietly as was possible, I clewed up the topsails,
lowered the flying jib and staysail, backed the jib over, and
flattened the mainsail. Then I went below to Maud. I placed my
finger on my lips for silence, and entered Wolf Larsen's room. He
was in the same position in which I had left him, and his head was
rocking--almost writhing--from side to side.
"Anything I can do for you?" I asked.
He made no reply at first, but on my repeating the question he
answered, "No, no; I'm all right. Leave me alone till morning."
But as I turned to go I noted that his head had resumed its rocking
motion. Maud was waiting patiently for me, and I took notice, with
a thrill of joy, of the queenly poise of her head and her glorious,
calm eyes. Calm and sure they were as her spirit itself.
"Will you trust yourself to me for a journey of six hundred miles
or so?" I asked.
"You mean--?" she asked, and I knew she had guessed aright.
"Yes, I mean just that," I replied. "There is nothing left for us
but the open boat."
"For me, you mean," she said. "You are certainly as safe here as
you have been."
"No, there is nothing left for us but the open boat," I iterated
stoutly. "Will you please dress as warmly as you can, at once, and
make into a bundle whatever you wish to bring with you."
"And make all haste," I added, as she turned toward her state-room.
The lazarette was directly beneath the cabin, and, opening the
trap-door in the floor and carrying a candle with me, I dropped
down and began overhauling the ship's stores. I selected mainly
from the canned goods, and by the time I was ready, willing hands
were extended from above to receive what I passed up.
We worked in silence. I helped myself also to blankets, mittens,
oilskins, caps, and such things, from the slop-chest. It was no
light adventure, this trusting ourselves in a small boat to so raw
and stormy a sea, and it was imperative that we should guard
ourselves against the cold and wet.
We worked feverishly at carrying our plunder on deck and depositing
it amidships, so feverishly that Maud, whose strength was hardly a
positive quantity, had to give over, exhausted, and sit on the
steps at the break of the poop. This did not serve to recover her,
and she lay on her back, on the hard deck, arms stretched out, and
whole body relaxed. It was a trick I remembered of my sister, and
I knew she would soon be herself again. I knew, also, that weapons
would not come in amiss, and I re-entered Wolf Larsen's state-room
to get his rifle and shot-gun. I spoke to him, but he made no
answer, though his head was still rocking from side to side and he
was not asleep.
"Good-bye, Lucifer," I whispered to myself as I softly closed the
Next to obtain was a stock of ammunition,--an easy matter, though I
had to enter the steerage companion-way to do it. Here the hunters
stored the ammunition-boxes they carried in the boats, and here,
but a few feet from their noisy revels, I took possession of two
Next, to lower a boat. Not so simple a task for one man. Having
cast off the lashings, I hoisted first on the forward tackle, then
on the aft, till the boat cleared the rail, when I lowered away,
one tackle and then the other, for a couple of feet, till it hung
snugly, above the water, against the schooner's side. I made
certain that it contained the proper equipment of oars, rowlocks,
and sail. Water was a consideration, and I robbed every boat
aboard of its breaker. As there were nine boats all told, it meant
that we should have plenty of water, and ballast as well, though
there was the chance that the boat would be overloaded, what of the
generous supply of other things I was taking.
While Maud was passing me the provisions and I was storing them in
the boat, a sailor came on deck from the forecastle. He stood by
the weather rail for a time (we were lowering over the lee rail),
and then sauntered slowly amidships, where he again paused and
stood facing the wind, with his back toward us. I could hear my
heart beating as I crouched low in the boat. Maud had sunk down
upon the deck and was, I knew, lying motionless, her body in the
shadow of the bulwark. But the man never turned, and, after
stretching his arms above his head and yawning audibly, he retraced
his steps to the forecastle scuttle and disappeared.
A few minutes sufficed to finish the loading, and I lowered the
boat into the water. As I helped Maud over the rail and felt her
form close to mine, it was all I could do to keep from crying out,
"I love you! I love you!" Truly Humphrey Van Weyden was at last
in love, I thought, as her fingers clung to mine while I lowered
her down to the boat. I held on to the rail with one hand and
supported her weight with the other, and I was proud at the moment
of the feat. It was a strength I had not possessed a few months
before, on the day I said good-bye to Charley Furuseth and started
for San Francisco on the ill-fated Martinez.
As the boat ascended on a sea, her feet touched and I released her
hands. I cast off the tackles and leaped after her. I had never
rowed in my life, but I put out the oars and at the expense of much
effort got the boat clear of the Ghost. Then I experimented with
the sail. I had seen the boat-steerers and hunters set their
spritsails many times, yet this was my first attempt. What took
them possibly two minutes took me twenty, but in the end I
succeeded in setting and trimming it, and with the steering-oar in
my hands hauled on the wind.
"There lies Japan," I remarked, "straight before us."
"Humphrey Van Weyden," she said, "you are a brave man."
"Nay," I answered, "it is you who are a brave woman."
We turned our heads, swayed by a common impulse to see the last of
the Ghost. Her low hull lifted and rolled to windward on a sea;
her canvas loomed darkly in the night; her lashed wheel creaked as
the rudder kicked; then sight and sound of her faded away, and we
were alone on the dark sea.
Day broke, grey and chill. The boat was close-hauled on a fresh
breeze and the compass indicated that we were just making the
course which would bring us to Japan. Though stoutly mittened, my
fingers were cold, and they pained from the grip on the steering-
oar. My feet were stinging from the bite of the frost, and I hoped
fervently that the sun would shine.
Before me, in the bottom of the boat, lay Maud. She, at least, was
warm, for under her and over her were thick blankets. The top one
I had drawn over her face to shelter it from the night, so I could
see nothing but the vague shape of her, and her light-brown hair,
escaped from the covering and jewelled with moisture from the air.
Long I looked at her, dwelling upon that one visible bit of her as
only a man would who deemed it the most precious thing in the
world. So insistent was my gaze that at last she stirred under the
blankets, the top fold was thrown back and she smiled out on me,
her eyes yet heavy with sleep.
"Good-morning, Mr. Van Weyden," she said. "Have you sighted land
"No," I answered, "but we are approaching it at a rate of six miles
She made a moue of disappointment.
"But that is equivalent to one hundred and forty-four miles in
twenty-four hours," I added reassuringly.
Her face brightened. "And how far have we to go?"
"Siberia lies off there," I said, pointing to the west. "But to
the south-west, some six hundred miles, is Japan. If this wind
should hold, we'll make it in five days."
"And if it storms? The boat could not live?"
She had a way of looking one in the eyes and demanding the truth,
and thus she looked at me as she asked the question.
"It would have to storm very hard," I temporized.
"And if it storms very hard?"
I nodded my head. "But we may be picked up any moment by a
sealing-schooner. They are plentifully distributed over this part
of the ocean."
"Why, you are chilled through!" she cried. "Look! You are
shivering. Don't deny it; you are. And here I have been lying
warm as toast."
"I don't see that it would help matters if you, too, sat up and
were chilled," I laughed.
"It will, though, when I learn to steer, which I certainly shall."
She sat up and began making her simple toilet. She shook down her
hair, and it fell about her in a brown cloud, hiding her face and
shoulders. Dear, damp brown hair! I wanted to kiss it, to ripple
it through my fingers, to bury my face in it. I gazed entranced,
till the boat ran into the wind and the flapping sail warned me I
was not attending to my duties. Idealist and romanticist that I
was and always had been in spite of my analytical nature, yet I had
failed till now in grasping much of the physical characteristics of
love. The love of man and woman, I had always held, was a
sublimated something related to spirit, a spiritual bond that
linked and drew their souls together. The bonds of the flesh had
little part in my cosmos of love. But I was learning the sweet
lesson for myself that the soul transmuted itself, expressed
itself, through the flesh; that the sight and sense and touch of
the loved one's hair was as much breath and voice and essence of
the spirit as the light that shone from the eyes and the thoughts
that fell from the lips. After all, pure spirit was unknowable, a
thing to be sensed and divined only; nor could it express itself in
terms of itself. Jehovah was anthropomorphic because he could
address himself to the Jews only in terms of their understanding;
so he was conceived as in their own image, as a cloud, a pillar of
fire, a tangible, physical something which the mind of the
Israelites could grasp.
And so I gazed upon Maud's light-brown hair, and loved it, and
learned more of love than all the poets and singers had taught me
with all their songs and sonnets. She flung it back with a sudden
adroit movement, and her face emerged, smiling.
"Why don't women wear their hair down always?" I asked. "It is so
much more beautiful."
"If it didn't tangle so dreadfully," she laughed. "There! I've
lost one of my precious hair-pins!"
I neglected the boat and had the sail spilling the wind again and
again, such was my delight in following her every movement as she
searched through the blankets for the pin. I was surprised, and
joyfully, that she was so much the woman, and the display of each
trait and mannerism that was characteristically feminine gave me
keener joy. For I had been elevating her too highly in my concepts
of her, removing her too far from the plane of the human, and too
far from me. I had been making of her a creature goddess-like and
unapproachable. So I hailed with delight the little traits that
proclaimed her only woman after all, such as the toss of the head
which flung back the cloud of hair, and the search for the pin.
She was woman, my kind, on my plane, and the delightful intimacy of
kind, of man and woman, was possible, as well as the reverence and
awe in which I knew I should always hold her.
She found the pin with an adorable little cry, and I turned my
attention more fully to my steering. I proceeded to experiment,
lashing and wedging the steering-oar until the boat held on fairly
well by the wind without my assistance. Occasionally it came up
too close, or fell off too freely; but it always recovered itself
and in the main behaved satisfactorily.
"And now we shall have breakfast," I said. "But first you must be
more warmly clad."
I got out a heavy shirt, new from the slop-chest and made from
blanket goods. I knew the kind, so thick and so close of texture
that it could resist the rain and not be soaked through after hours
of wetting. When she had slipped this on over her head, I
exchanged the boy's cap she wore for a man's cap, large enough to
cover her hair, and, when the flap was turned down, to completely
cover her neck and ears. The effect was charming. Her face was of
the sort that cannot but look well under all circumstances.
Nothing could destroy its exquisite oval, its well-nigh classic
lines, its delicately stencilled brows, its large brown eyes,
clear-seeing and calm, gloriously calm.
A puff, slightly stronger than usual, struck us just then. The
boat was caught as it obliquely crossed the crest of a wave. It
went over suddenly, burying its gunwale level with the sea and
shipping a bucketful or so of water. I was opening a can of tongue
at the moment, and I sprang to the sheet and cast it off just in
time. The sail flapped and fluttered, and the boat paid off. A
few minutes of regulating sufficed to put it on its course again,
when I returned to the preparation of breakfast.
"It does very well, it seems, though I am not versed in things
nautical," she said, nodding her head with grave approval at my
"But it will serve only when we are sailing by the wind," I
explained. "When running more freely, with the wind astern abeam,
or on the quarter, it will be necessary for me to steer."
"I must say I don't understand your technicalities," she said, "but
I do your conclusion, and I don't like it. You cannot steer night
and day and for ever. So I shall expect, after breakfast, to
receive my first lesson. And then you shall lie down and sleep.
We'll stand watches just as they do on ships."
"I don't see how I am to teach you," I made protest. "I am just
learning for myself. You little thought when you trusted yourself
to me that I had had no experience whatever with small boats. This
is the first time I have ever been in one."
"Then we'll learn together, sir. And since you've had a night's
start you shall teach me what you have learned. And now,
breakfast. My! this air does give one an appetite!"
"No coffee," I said regretfully, passing her buttered sea-biscuits
and a slice of canned tongue. "And there will be no tea, no soups,
nothing hot, till we have made land somewhere, somehow."
After the simple breakfast, capped with a cup of cold water, Maud
took her lesson in steering. In teaching her I learned quite a
deal myself, though I was applying the knowledge already acquired
by sailing the Ghost and by watching the boat-steerers sail the
small boats. She was an apt pupil, and soon learned to keep the
course, to luff in the puffs and to cast off the sheet in an
Having grown tired, apparently, of the task, she relinquished the
oar to me. I had folded up the blankets, but she now proceeded to
spread them out on the bottom. When all was arranged snugly, she
"Now, sir, to bed. And you shall sleep until luncheon. Till
dinner-time," she corrected, remembering the arrangement on the
What could I do? She insisted, and said, "Please, please,"
whereupon I turned the oar over to her and obeyed. I experienced a
positive sensuous delight as I crawled into the bed she had made
with her hands. The calm and control which were so much a part of
her seemed to have been communicated to the blankets, so that I was
aware of a soft dreaminess and content, and of an oval face and
brown eyes framed in a fisherman's cap and tossing against a
background now of grey cloud, now of grey sea, and then I was aware
that I had been asleep.
I looked at my watch. It was one o'clock. I had slept seven
hours! And she had been steering seven hours! When I took the
steering-oar I had first to unbend her cramped fingers. Her
modicum of strength had been exhausted, and she was unable even to
move from her position. I was compelled to let go the sheet while
I helped her to the nest of blankets and chafed her hands and arms.
"I am so tired," she said, with a quick intake of the breath and a
sigh, drooping her head wearily.
But she straightened it the next moment. "Now don't scold, don't
you dare scold," she cried with mock defiance.
"I hope my face does not appear angry," I answered seriously; "for
I assure you I am not in the least angry."
"N-no," she considered. "It looks only reproachful."
"Then it is an honest face, for it looks what I feel. You were not
fair to yourself, nor to me. How can I ever trust you again?"
She looked penitent. "I'll be good," she said, as a naughty child
might say it. "I promise--"
"To obey as a sailor would obey his captain?"
"Yes," she answered. "It was stupid of me, I know."
"Then you must promise something else," I ventured.
"That you will not say, 'Please, please,' too often; for when you
do you are sure to override my authority."
She laughed with amused appreciation. She, too, had noticed the
power of the repeated "please."
"It is a good word--" I began.
"But I must not overwork it," she broke in.
But she laughed weakly, and her head drooped again. I left the oar
long enough to tuck the blankets about her feet and to pull a
single fold across her face. Alas! she was not strong. I looked
with misgiving toward the south-west and thought of the six hundred
miles of hardship before us--ay, if it were no worse than hardship.
On this sea a storm might blow up at any moment and destroy us.
And yet I was unafraid. I was without confidence in the future,
extremely doubtful, and yet I felt no underlying fear. It must
come right, it must come right, I repeated to myself, over and over
The wind freshened in the afternoon, raising a stiffer sea and
trying the boat and me severely. But the supply of food and the
nine breakers of water enabled the boat to stand up to the sea and
wind, and I held on as long as I dared. Then I removed the sprit,
tightly hauling down the peak of the sail, and we raced along under
what sailors call a leg-of-mutton.
Late in the afternoon I sighted a steamer's smoke on the horizon to
leeward, and I knew it either for a Russian cruiser, or, more
likely, the Macedonia still seeking the Ghost. The sun had not
shone all day, and it had been bitter cold. As night drew on, the
clouds darkened and the wind freshened, so that when Maud and I ate
supper it was with our mittens on and with me still steering and
eating morsels between puffs.
By the time it was dark, wind and sea had become too strong for the
boat, and I reluctantly took in the sail and set about making a
drag or sea-anchor. I had learned of the device from the talk of
the hunters, and it was a simple thing to manufacture. Furling the
sail and lashing it securely about the mast, boom, sprit, and two
pairs of spare oars, I threw it overboard. A line connected it
with the bow, and as it floated low in the water, practically
unexposed to the wind, it drifted less rapidly than the boat. In
consequence it held the boat bow on to the sea and wind--the safest
position in which to escape being swamped when the sea is breaking
"And now?" Maud asked cheerfully, when the task was accomplished
and I pulled on my mittens.
"And now we are no longer travelling toward Japan," I answered.
"Our drift is to the south-east, or south-south-east, at the rate
of at least two miles an hour."
"That will be only twenty-four miles," she urged, "if the wind
remains high all night."
"Yes, and only one hundred and forty miles if it continues for
three days and nights."
"But it won't continue," she said with easy confidence. "It will
turn around and blow fair."
"The sea is the great faithless one."
"But the wind!" she retorted. "I have heard you grow eloquent over
the brave trade-wind."
"I wish I had thought to bring Wolf Larsen's chronometer and
sextant," I said, still gloomily. "Sailing one direction, drifting
another direction, to say nothing of the set of the current in some
third direction, makes a resultant which dead reckoning can never
calculate. Before long we won't know where we are by five hundred
Then I begged her pardon and promised I should not be disheartened
any more. At her solicitation I let her take the watch till
midnight,--it was then nine o'clock, but I wrapped her in blankets
and put an oilskin about her before I lay down. I slept only cat-
naps. The boat was leaping and pounding as it fell over the
crests, I could hear the seas rushing past, and spray was
continually being thrown aboard. And still, it was not a bad
night, I mused--nothing to the nights I had been through on the
Ghost; nothing, perhaps, to the nights we should go through in this
cockle-shell. Its planking was three-quarters of an inch thick.
Between us and the bottom of the sea was less than an inch of wood.
And yet, I aver it, and I aver it again, I was unafraid. The death
which Wolf Larsen and even Thomas Mugridge had made me fear, I no
longer feared. The coming of Maud Brewster into my life seemed to
have transformed me. After all, I thought, it is better and finer
to love than to be loved, if it makes something in life so worth
while that one is not loath to die for it. I forget my own life in
the love of another life; and yet, such is the paradox, I never
wanted so much to live as right now when I place the least value
upon my own life. I never had so much reason for living, was my
concluding thought; and after that, until I dozed, I contented
myself with trying to pierce the darkness to where I knew Maud
crouched low in the stern-sheets, watchful of the foaming sea and
ready to call me on an instant's notice.
There is no need of going into an extended recital of our suffering
in the small boat during the many days we were driven and drifted,
here and there, willy-nilly, across the ocean. The high wind blew
from the north-west for twenty-four hours, when it fell calm, and
in the night sprang up from the south-west. This was dead in our
teeth, but I took in the sea-anchor and set sail, hauling a course
on the wind which took us in a south-south-easterly direction. It
was an even choice between this and the west-north-westerly course
which the wind permitted; but the warm airs of the south fanned my
desire for a warmer sea and swayed my decision.
In three hours--it was midnight, I well remember, and as dark as I
had ever seen it on the sea--the wind, still blowing out of the
south-west, rose furiously, and once again I was compelled to set
Day broke and found me wan-eyed and the ocean lashed white, the
boat pitching, almost on end, to its drag. We were in imminent
danger of being swamped by the whitecaps. As it was, spray and
spume came aboard in such quantities that I bailed without
cessation. The blankets were soaking. Everything was wet except
Maud, and she, in oilskins, rubber boots, and sou'wester, was dry,
all but her face and hands and a stray wisp of hair. She relieved
me at the bailing-hole from time to time, and bravely she threw out
the water and faced the storm. All things are relative. It was no
more than a stiff blow, but to us, fighting for life in our frail
craft, it was indeed a storm.
Cold and cheerless, the wind beating on our faces, the white seas
roaring by, we struggled through the day. Night came, but neither
of us slept. Day came, and still the wind beat on our faces and
the white seas roared past. By the second night Maud was falling
asleep from exhaustion. I covered her with oilskins and a
tarpaulin. She was comparatively dry, but she was numb with the
cold. I feared greatly that she might die in the night; but day
broke, cold and cheerless, with the same clouded sky and beating
wind and roaring seas.
I had had no sleep for forty-eight hours. I was wet and chilled to
the marrow, till I felt more dead than alive. My body was stiff
from exertion as well as from cold, and my aching muscles gave me
the severest torture whenever I used them, and I used them
continually. And all the time we were being driven off into the
north-east, directly away from Japan and toward bleak Bering Sea.
And still we lived, and the boat lived, and the wind blew unabated.
In fact, toward nightfall of the third day it increased a trifle
and something more. The boat's bow plunged under a crest, and we
came through quarter-full of water. I bailed like a madman. The
liability of shipping another such sea was enormously increased by
the water that weighed the boat down and robbed it of its buoyancy.
And another such sea meant the end. When I had the boat empty
again I was forced to take away the tarpaulin which covered Maud,
in order that I might lash it down across the bow. It was well I
did, for it covered the boat fully a third of the way aft, and
three times, in the next several hours, it flung off the bulk of
the down-rushing water when the bow shoved under the seas.
Maud's condition was pitiable. She sat crouched in the bottom of
the boat, her lips blue, her face grey and plainly showing the pain
she suffered. But ever her eyes looked bravely at me, and ever her
lips uttered brave words.
The worst of the storm must have blown that night, though little I
noticed it. I had succumbed and slept where I sat in the stern-
sheets. The morning of the fourth day found the wind diminished to
a gentle whisper, the sea dying down and the sun shining upon us.
Oh, the blessed sun! How we bathed our poor bodies in its
delicious warmth, reviving like bugs and crawling things after a
storm. We smiled again, said amusing things, and waxed optimistic
over our situation. Yet it was, if anything, worse than ever. We
were farther from Japan than the night we left the Ghost. Nor
could I more than roughly guess our latitude and longitude. At a
calculation of a two-mile drift per hour, during the seventy and
odd hours of the storm, we had been driven at least one hundred and
fifty miles to the north-east. But was such calculated drift
correct? For all I knew, it might have been four miles per hour
instead of two. In which case we were another hundred and fifty
miles to the bad.
Where we were I did not know, though there was quite a likelihood
that we were in the vicinity of the Ghost. There were seals about
us, and I was prepared to sight a sealing-schooner at any time. We
did sight one, in the afternoon, when the north-west breeze had
sprung up freshly once more. But the strange schooner lost itself
on the sky-line and we alone occupied the circle of the sea.
Came days of fog, when even Maud's spirit drooped and there were no
merry words upon her lips; days of calm, when we floated on the
lonely immensity of sea, oppressed by its greatness and yet
marvelling at the miracle of tiny life, for we still lived and
struggled to live; days of sleet and wind and snow-squalls, when
nothing could keep us warm; or days of drizzling rain, when we
filled our water-breakers from the drip of the wet sail.
And ever I loved Maud with an increasing love. She was so many-
sided, so many-mooded--"protean-mooded" I called her. But I called
her this, and other and dearer things, in my thoughts only. Though
the declaration of my love urged and trembled on my tongue a
thousand times, I knew that it was no time for such a declaration.
If for no other reason, it was no time, when one was protecting and
trying to save a woman, to ask that woman for her love. Delicate
as was the situation, not alone in this but in other ways, I
flattered myself that I was able to deal delicately with it; and
also I flattered myself that by look or sign I gave no
advertisement of the love I felt for her. We were like good
comrades, and we grew better comrades as the days went by.
One thing about her which surprised me was her lack of timidity and
fear. The terrible sea, the frail boat, the storms, the suffering,
the strangeness and isolation of the situation,--all that should
have frightened a robust woman,--seemed to make no impression upon
her who had known life only in its most sheltered and consummately
artificial aspects, and who was herself all fire and dew and mist,
sublimated spirit, all that was soft and tender and clinging in
woman. And yet I am wrong. She WAS timid and afraid, but she
possessed courage. The flesh and the qualms of the flesh she was
heir to, but the flesh bore heavily only on the flesh. And she was
spirit, first and always spirit, etherealized essence of life, calm
as her calm eyes, and sure of permanence in the changing order of
Came days of storm, days and nights of storm, when the ocean
menaced us with its roaring whiteness, and the wind smote our
struggling boat with a Titan's buffets. And ever we were flung
off, farther and farther, to the north-east. It was in such a
storm, and the worst that we had experienced, that I cast a weary
glance to leeward, not in quest of anything, but more from the
weariness of facing the elemental strife, and in mute appeal,
almost, to the wrathful powers to cease and let us be. What I saw
I could not at first believe. Days and nights of sleeplessness and
anxiety had doubtless turned my head. I looked back at Maud, to
identify myself, as it were, in time and space. The sight of her
dear wet cheeks, her flying hair, and her brave brown eyes
convinced me that my vision was still healthy. Again I turned my
face to leeward, and again I saw the jutting promontory, black and
high and naked, the raging surf that broke about its base and beat
its front high up with spouting fountains, the black and forbidden
coast-line running toward the south-east and fringed with a
tremendous scarf of white.
"Maud," I said. "Maud."
She turned her head and beheld the sight.
"It cannot be Alaska!" she cried.
"Alas, no," I answered, and asked, "Can you swim?"
She shook her head.
"Neither can I," I said. "So we must get ashore without swimming,
in some opening between the rocks through which we can drive the
boat and clamber out. But we must be quick, most quick--and sure."
I spoke with a confidence she knew I did not feel, for she looked
at me with that unfaltering gaze of hers and said:
"I have not thanked you yet for all you have done for me but--"
She hesitated, as if in doubt how best to word her gratitude.
"Well?" I said, brutally, for I was not quite pleased with her
"You might help me," she smiled.
"To acknowledge your obligations before you die? Not at all. We
are not going to die. We shall land on that island, and we shall
be snug and sheltered before the day is done."
I spoke stoutly, but I did not believe a word. Nor was I prompted
to lie through fear. I felt no fear, though I was sure of death in
that boiling surge amongst the rocks which was rapidly growing
nearer. It was impossible to hoist sail and claw off that shore.
The wind would instantly capsize the boat; the seas would swamp it
the moment it fell into the trough; and, besides, the sail, lashed
to the spare oars, dragged in the sea ahead of us.
As I say, I was not afraid to meet my own death, there, a few
hundred yards to leeward; but I was appalled at the thought that
Maud must die. My cursed imagination saw her beaten and mangled
against the rocks, and it was too terrible. I strove to compel
myself to think we would make the landing safely, and so I spoke,
not what I believed, but what I preferred to believe.
I recoiled before contemplation of that frightful death, and for a
moment I entertained the wild idea of seizing Maud in my arms and
leaping overboard. Then I resolved to wait, and at the last
moment, when we entered on the final stretch, to take her in my
arms and proclaim my love, and, with her in my embrace, to make the
desperate struggle and die.
Instinctively we drew closer together in the bottom of the boat. I
felt her mittened hand come out to mine. And thus, without speech,
we waited the end. We were not far off the line the wind made with
the western edge of the promontory, and I watched in the hope that
some set of the current or send of the sea would drift us past
before we reached the surf.
"We shall go clear," I said, with a confidence which I knew
deceived neither of us.
"By God, we WILL go clear!" I cried, five minutes later.
The oath left my lips in my excitement--the first, I do believe, in
my life, unless "trouble it," an expletive of my youth, be
accounted an oath.
"I beg your pardon," I said.
"You have convinced me of your sincerity," she said, with a faint
smile. "I do know, now, that we shall go clear."
I had seen a distant headland past the extreme edge of the
promontory, and as we looked we could see grow the intervening
coastline of what was evidently a deep cove. At the same time
there broke upon our ears a continuous and mighty bellowing. It
partook of the magnitude and volume of distant thunder, and it came
to us directly from leeward, rising above the crash of the surf and
travelling directly in the teeth of the storm. As we passed the
point the whole cove burst upon our view, a half-moon of white
sandy beach upon which broke a huge surf, and which was covered
with myriads of seals. It was from them that the great bellowing
"A rookery!" I cried. "Now are we indeed saved. There must be men
and cruisers to protect them from the seal-hunters. Possibly there
is a station ashore."
But as I studied the surf which beat upon the beach, I said, "Still
bad, but not so bad. And now, if the gods be truly kind, we shall
drift by that next headland and come upon a perfectly sheltered
beach, where we may land without wetting our feet."
And the gods were kind. The first and second headlands were
directly in line with the south-west wind; but once around the
second,--and we went perilously near,--we picked up the third
headland, still in line with the wind and with the other two. But
the cove that intervened! It penetrated deep into the land, and
the tide, setting in, drifted us under the shelter of the point.
Here the sea was calm, save for a heavy but smooth ground-swell,
and I took in the sea-anchor and began to row. From the point the
shore curved away, more and more to the south and west, until at
last it disclosed a cove within the cove, a little land-locked
harbour, the water level as a pond, broken only by tiny ripples
where vagrant breaths and wisps of the storm hurtled down from over
the frowning wall of rock that backed the beach a hundred feet
Here were no seals whatever. The boat's stern touched the hard
shingle. I sprang out, extending my hand to Maud. The next moment
she was beside me. As my fingers released hers, she clutched for
my arm hastily. At the same moment I swayed, as about to fall to
the sand. This was the startling effect of the cessation of
motion. We had been so long upon the moving, rocking sea that the
stable land was a shock to us. We expected the beach to lift up
this way and that, and the rocky walls to swing back and forth like
the sides of a ship; and when we braced ourselves, automatically,
for these various expected movements, their non-occurrence quite
overcame our equilibrium.
"I really must sit down," Maud said, with a nervous laugh and a
dizzy gesture, and forthwith she sat down on the sand.
I attended to making the boat secure and joined her. Thus we
landed on Endeavour Island, as we came to it, land-sick from long
custom of the sea.
"Fool!" I cried aloud in my vexation.
I had unloaded the boat and carried its contents high up on the
beach, where I had set about making a camp. There was driftwood,
though not much, on the beach, and the sight of a coffee tin I had
taken from the Ghost's larder had given me the idea of a fire.
"Blithering idiot!" I was continuing.
But Maud said, "Tut, tut," in gentle reproval, and then asked why I
was a blithering idiot.
"No matches," I groaned. "Not a match did I bring. And now we
shall have no hot coffee, soup, tea, or anything!"
"Wasn't it--er--Crusoe who rubbed sticks together?" she drawled.
"But I have read the personal narratives of a score of shipwrecked
men who tried, and tried in vain," I answered. "I remember
Winters, a newspaper fellow with an Alaskan and Siberian
reputation. Met him at the Bibelot once, and he was telling us how
he attempted to make a fire with a couple of sticks. It was most
amusing. He told it inimitably, but it was the story of a failure.
I remember his conclusion, his black eyes flashing as he said,
'Gentlemen, the South Sea Islander may do it, the Malay may do it,
but take my word it's beyond the white man.'"
"Oh, well, we've managed so far without it," she said cheerfully.
"And there's no reason why we cannot still manage without it."
"But think of the coffee!" I cried. "It's good coffee, too, I
know. I took it from Larsen's private stores. And look at that
I confess, I wanted the coffee badly; and I learned, not long
afterward, that the berry was likewise a little weakness of Maud's.
Besides, we had been so long on a cold diet that we were numb
inside as well as out. Anything warm would have been most
gratifying. But I complained no more and set about making a tent
of the sail for Maud.
I had looked upon it as a simple task, what of the oars, mast,
boom, and sprit, to say nothing of plenty of lines. But as I was
without experience, and as every detail was an experiment and every
successful detail an invention, the day was well gone before her
shelter was an accomplished fact. And then, that night, it rained,
and she was flooded out and driven back into the boat.
The next morning I dug a shallow ditch around the tent, and, an
hour later, a sudden gust of wind, whipping over the rocky wall
behind us, picked up the tent and smashed it down on the sand
thirty yards away.
Maud laughed at my crestfallen expression, and I said, "As soon as
the wind abates I intend going in the boat to explore the island.
There must be a station somewhere, and men. And ships must visit
the station. Some Government must protect all these seals. But I
wish to have you comfortable before I start."
"I should like to go with you," was all she said.
"It would be better if you remained. You have had enough of
hardship. It is a miracle that you have survived. And it won't be
comfortable in the boat rowing and sailing in this rainy weather.
What you need is rest, and I should like you to remain and get it."
Something suspiciously akin to moistness dimmed her beautiful eyes
before she dropped them and partly turned away her head.
"I should prefer going with you," she said in a low voice, in which
there was just a hint of appeal.
"I might be able to help you a--" her voice broke,--"a little. And
if anything should happen to you, think of me left here alone."
"Oh, I intend being very careful," I answered. "And I shall not go
so far but what I can get back before night. Yes, all said and
done, I think it vastly better for you to remain, and sleep, and
rest and do nothing."
She turned and looked me in the eyes. Her gaze was unfaltering,
"Please, please," she said, oh, so softly.
I stiffened myself to refuse, and shook my head. Still she waited
and looked at me. I tried to word my refusal, but wavered. I saw
the glad light spring into her eyes and knew that I had lost. It
was impossible to say no after that.
The wind died down in the afternoon, and we were prepared to start
the following morning. There was no way of penetrating the island
from our cove, for the walls rose perpendicularly from the beach,
and, on either side of the cove, rose from the deep water.
Morning broke dull and grey, but calm, and I was awake early and
had the boat in readiness.
"Fool! Imbecile! Yahoo!" I shouted, when I thought it was meet to
arouse Maud; but this time I shouted in merriment as I danced about
the beach, bareheaded, in mock despair.
Her head appeared under the flap of the sail.
"What now?" she asked sleepily, and, withal, curiously.
"Coffee!" I cried. "What do you say to a cup of coffee? hot
coffee? piping hot?"
"My!" she murmured, "you startled me, and you are cruel. Here I
have been composing my soul to do without it, and here you are
vexing me with your vain suggestions."
"Watch me," I said.
From under clefts among the rocks I gathered a few dry sticks and
chips. These I whittled into shavings or split into kindling.
From my note-book I tore out a page, and from the ammunition box
took a shot-gun shell. Removing the wads from the latter with my
knife, I emptied the powder on a flat rock. Next I pried the
primer, or cap, from the shell, and laid it on the rock, in the
midst of the scattered powder. All was ready. Maud still watched
from the tent. Holding the paper in my lelf hand, I smashed down
upon the cap with a rock held in my right. There was a puff of
white smoke, a burst of flame, and the rough edge of the paper was
Maud clapped her hands gleefully. "Prometheus!" she cried.
But I was too occupied to acknowledge her delight. The feeble
flame must be cherished tenderly if it were to gather strength and
live. I fed it, shaving by shaving, and sliver by sliver, till at
last it was snapping and crackling as it laid hold of the smaller
chips and sticks. To be cast away on an island had not entered
into my calculations, so we were without a kettle or cooking
utensils of any sort; but I made shift with the tin used for
bailing the boat, and later, as we consumed our supply of canned
goods, we accumulated quite an imposing array of cooking vessels.
I boiled the water, but it was Maud who made the coffee. And how
good it was! My contribution was canned beef fried with crumbled
sea-biscuit and water. The breakfast was a success, and we sat
about the fire much longer than enterprising explorers should have
done, sipping the hot black coffee and talking over our situation.
I was confident that we should find a station in some one of the
coves, for I knew that the rookeries of Bering Sea were thus
guarded; but Maud advanced the theory--to prepare me for
disappointment, I do believe, if disappointment were to come--that
we had discovered an unknown rookery. She was in very good
spirits, however, and made quite merry in accepting our plight as a
"If you are right," I said, "then we must prepare to winter here.
Our food will not last, but there are the seals. They go away in
the fall, so I must soon begin to lay in a supply of meat. Then
there will be huts to build and driftwood to gather. Also we shall
try out seal fat for lighting purposes. Altogether, we'll have our
hands full if we find the island uninhabited. Which we shall not,
But she was right. We sailed with a beam wind along the shore,
searching the coves with our glasses and landing occasionally,
without finding a sign of human life. Yet we learned that we were
not the first who had landed on Endeavour Island. High up on the
beach of the second cove from ours, we discovered the splintered
wreck of a boat--a sealer's boat, for the rowlocks were bound in
sennit, a gun-rack was on the starboard side of the bow, and in
white letters was faintly visible Gazelle No. 2. The boat had lain
there for a long time, for it was half filled with sand, and the
splintered wood had that weather-worn appearance due to long
exposure to the elements. In the stern-sheets I found a rusty ten-
gauge shot-gun and a sailor's sheath-knife broken short across and
so rusted as to be almost unrecognizable.
"They got away," I said cheerfully; but I felt a sinking at the
heart and seemed to divine the presence of bleached bones somewhere
on that beach.
I did not wish Maud's spirits to be dampened by such a find, so I
turned seaward again with our boat and skirted the north-eastern
point of the island. There were no beaches on the southern shore,
and by early afternoon we rounded the black promontory and
completed the circumnavigation of the island. I estimated its
circumference at twenty-five miles, its width as varying from two
to five miles; while my most conservative calculation placed on its
beaches two hundred thousand seals. The island was highest at its
extreme south-western point, the headlands and backbone diminishing
regularly until the north-eastern portion was only a few feet above
the sea. With the exception of our little cove, the other beaches
sloped gently back for a distance of half-a-mile or so, into what I
might call rocky meadows, with here and there patches of moss and
tundra grass. Here the seals hauled out, and the old bulls guarded
their harems, while the young bulls hauled out by themselves.
This brief description is all that Endeavour Island merits. Damp
and soggy where it was not sharp and rocky, buffeted by storm winds
and lashed by the sea, with the air continually a-tremble with the
bellowing of two hundred thousand amphibians, it was a melancholy
and miserable sojourning-place. Maud, who had prepared me for
disappointment, and who had been sprightly and vivacious all day,
broke down as we landed in our own little cove. She strove bravely
to hide it from me, but while I was kindling another fire I knew
she was stifling her sobs in the blankets under the sail-tent.
It was my turn to be cheerful, and I played the part to the best of
my ability, and with such success that I brought the laughter back
into her dear eyes and song on her lips; for she sang to me before
she went to an early bed. It was the first time I had heard her
sing, and I lay by the fire, listening and transported, for she was
nothing if not an artist in everything she did, and her voice,
though not strong, was wonderfully sweet and expressive.
I still slept in the boat, and I lay awake long that night, gazing
up at the first stars I had seen in many nights and pondering the
situation. Responsibility of this sort was a new thing to me.
Wolf Larsen had been quite right. I had stood on my father's legs.
My lawyers and agents had taken care of my money for me. I had had
no responsibilities at all. Then, on the Ghost I had learned to be
responsible for myself. And now, for the first time in my life, I
found myself responsible for some one else. And it was required of
me that this should be the gravest of responsibilities, for she was
the one woman in the world--the one small woman, as I loved to
think of her.
No wonder we called it Endeavour Island. For two weeks we toiled
at building a hut. Maud insisted on helping, and I could have wept
over her bruised and bleeding hands. And still, I was proud of her
because of it. There was something heroic about this gently-bred
woman enduring our terrible hardship and with her pittance of
strength bending to the tasks of a peasant woman. She gathered
many of the stones which I built into the walls of the hut; also,
she turned a deaf ear to my entreaties when I begged her to desist.
She compromised, however, by taking upon herself the lighter
labours of cooking and gathering driftwood and moss for our
The hut's walls rose without difficulty, and everything went
smoothly until the problem of the roof confronted me. Of what use
the four walls without a roof? And of what could a roof be made?
There were the spare oars, very true. They would serve as roof-
beams; but with what was I to cover them? Moss would never do.
Tundra grass was impracticable. We needed the sail for the boat,
and the tarpaulin had begun to leak.
"Winters used walrus skins on his hut," I said.
"There are the seals," she suggested.
So next day the hunting began. I did not know how to shoot, but I
proceeded to learn. And when I had expended some thirty shells for
three seals, I decided that the ammunition would be exhausted
before I acquired the necessary knowledge. I had used eight shells
for lighting fires before I hit upon the device of banking the
embers with wet moss, and there remained not over a hundred shells
in the box.
"We must club the seals," I announced, when convinced of my poor
marksmanship. "I have heard the sealers talk about clubbing them."
"They are so pretty," she objected. "I cannot bear to think of it
being done. It is so directly brutal, you know; so different from
"That roof must go on," I answered grimly. "Winter is almost here.
It is our lives against theirs. It is unfortunate we haven't
plenty of ammunition, but I think, anyway, that they suffer less
from being clubbed than from being all shot up. Besides, I shall
do the clubbing."
"That's just it," she began eagerly, and broke off in sudden
"Of course," I began, "if you prefer--"
"But what shall I be doing?" she interrupted, with that softness I
knew full well to be insistence.
"Gathering firewood and cooking dinner," I answered lightly.
She shook her head. "It is too dangerous for you to attempt
"I know, I know," she waived my protest. "I am only a weak woman,
but just my small assistance may enable you to escape disaster."
"But the clubbing?" I suggested.
"Of course, you will do that. I shall probably scream. I'll look
"The danger is most serious," I laughed.
"I shall use my judgment when to look and when not to look," she
replied with a grand air.
The upshot of the affair was that she accompanied me next morning.
I rowed into the adjoining cove and up to the edge of the beach.
There were seals all about us in the water, and the bellowing
thousands on the beach compelled us to shout at each other to make
"I know men club them," I said, trying to reassure myself, and
gazing doubtfully at a large bull, not thirty feet away, upreared
on his fore-flippers and regarding me intently. "But the question
is, How do they club them?"
"Let us gather tundra grass and thatch the roof," Maud said.
She was as frightened as I at the prospect, and we had reason to be
gazing at close range at the gleaming teeth and dog-like mouths.
"I always thought they were afraid of men," I said.
"How do I know they are not afraid?" I queried a moment later,
after having rowed a few more strokes along the beach. "Perhaps,
if I were to step boldly ashore, they would cut for it, and I could
not catch up with one." And still I hesitated.
"I heard of a man, once, who invaded the nesting grounds of wild
geese," Maud said. "They killed him."
"Yes, the geese. My brother told me about it when I was a little
"But I know men club them," I persisted.
"I think the tundra grass will make just as good a roof," she said.
Far from her intention, her words were maddening me, driving me on.
I could not play the coward before her eyes. "Here goes," I said,
backing water with one oar and running the bow ashore.
I stepped out and advanced valiantly upon a long-maned bull in the
midst of his wives. I was armed with the regular club with which
the boat-pullers killed the wounded seals gaffed aboard by the
hunters. It was only a foot and a half long, and in my superb
ignorance I never dreamed that the club used ashore when raiding
the rookeries measured four to five feet. The cows lumbered out of
my way, and the distance between me and the bull decreased. He
raised himself on his flippers with an angry movement. We were a
dozen feet apart. Still I advanced steadily, looking for him to
turn tail at any moment and run.
At six feet the panicky thought rushed into my mind, What if he
will not run? Why, then I shall club him, came the answer. In my
fear I had forgotten that I was there to get the bull instead of to
make him run. And just then he gave a snort and a snarl and rushed
at me. His eyes were blazing, his mouth was wide open; the teeth
gleamed cruelly white. Without shame, I confess that it was I who
turned and footed it. He ran awkwardly, but he ran well. He was
but two paces behind when I tumbled into the boat, and as I shoved
off with an oar his teeth crunched down upon the blade. The stout
wood was crushed like an egg-shell. Maud and I were astounded. A
moment later he had dived under the boat, seized the keel in his
mouth, and was shaking the boat violently.
"My!" said Maud. "Let's go back."
I shook my head. "I can do what other men have done, and I know
that other men have clubbed seals. But I think I'll leave the
bulls alone next time."
"I wish you wouldn't," she said.
"Now don't say, 'Please, please,'" I cried, half angrily, I do
She made no reply, and I knew my tone must have hurt her.
"I beg your pardon," I said, or shouted, rather, in order to make
myself heard above the roar of the rookery. "If you say so, I'll
turn and go back; but honestly, I'd rather stay."
"Now don't say that this is what you get for bringing a woman
along," she said. She smiled at me whimsically, gloriously, and I
knew there was no need for forgiveness.
I rowed a couple of hundred feet along the beach so as to recover
my nerves, and then stepped ashore again.
"Do be cautious," she called after me.
I nodded my head and proceeded to make a flank attack on the
nearest harem. All went well until I aimed a blow at an outlying
cowls head and fell short. She snorted and tried to scramble away.
I ran in close and struck another blow, hitting the shoulder
instead of the head.
"Watch out!" I heard Maud scream.
In my excitement I had not been taking notice of other things, and
I looked up to see the lord of the harem charging down upon me.
Again I fled to the boat, hotly pursued; but this time Maud made no
suggestion of turning back.
"It would be better, I imagine, if you let harems alone and devoted
your attention to lonely and inoffensive-looking seals," was what
she said. "I think I have read something about them. Dr. Jordan's
book, I believe. They are the young bulls, not old enough to have
harems of their own. He called them the holluschickie, or
something like that. It seems to me if we find where they haul
"It seems to me that your fighting instinct is aroused," I laughed.
She flushed quickly and prettily. "I'll admit I don't like defeat
any more than you do, or any more than I like the idea of killing
such pretty, inoffensive creatures."
"Pretty!" I sniffed. "I failed to mark anything pre-eminently
pretty about those foamy-mouthed beasts that raced me."
"Your point of view," she laughed. "You lacked perspective. Now
if you did not have to get so close to the subject--"
"The very thing!" I cried. "What I need is a longer club. And
there's that broken oar ready to hand."
"It just comes to me," she said, "that Captain Larsen was telling
me how the men raided the rookeries. They drive the seals, in
small herds, a short distance inland before they kill them."
"I don't care to undertake the herding of one of those harems," I
"But there are the holluschickie," she said. "The holluschickie
haul out by themselves, and Dr. Jordan says that paths are left
between the harems, and that as long as the holluschickie keep
strictly to the path they are unmolested by the masters of the
"There's one now," I said, pointing to a young bull in the water.
"Let's watch him, and follow him if he hauls out."
He swam directly to the beach and clambered out into a small
opening between two harems, the masters of which made warning
noises but did not attack him. We watched him travel slowly
inward, threading about among the harems along what must have been
"Here goes," I said, stepping out; but I confess my heart was in my
mouth as I thought of going through the heart of that monstrous
"It would be wise to make the boat fast," Maud said.
She had stepped out beside me, and I regarded her with wonderment.
She nodded her head determinedly. "Yes, I'm going with you, so you
may as well secure the boat and arm me with a club."
"Let's go back," I said dejectedly. "I think tundra grass, will
do, after all."
"You know it won't," was her reply. "Shall I lead?"
With a shrug of the shoulders, but with the warmest admiration and
pride at heart for this woman, I equipped her with the broken oar
and took another for myself. It was with nervous trepidation that
we made the first few rods of the journey. Once Maud screamed in
terror as a cow thrust an inquisitive nose toward her foot, and
several times I quickened my pace for the same reason. But, beyond
warning coughs from either side, there were no signs of hostility.
It was a rookery which had never been raided by the hunters, and in
consequence the seals were mild-tempered and at the same time
In the very heart of the herd the din was terrific. It was almost
dizzying in its effect. I paused and smiled reassuringly at Maud,
for I had recovered my equanimity sooner than she. I could see
that she was still badly frightened. She came close to me and
"I'm dreadfully afraid!"
And I was not. Though the novelty had not yet worn off, the
peaceful comportment of the seals had quieted my alarm. Maud was
"I'm afraid, and I'm not afraid," she chattered with shaking jaws.
"It's my miserable body, not I."
"It's all right, it's all right," I reassured her, my arm passing
instinctively and protectingly around her.
I shall never forget, in that moment, how instantly conscious I
became of my manhood. The primitive deeps of my nature stirred. I
felt myself masculine, the protector of the weak, the fighting
male. And, best of all, I felt myself the protector of my loved
one. She leaned against me, so light and lily-frail, and as her
trembling eased away it seemed as though I became aware of
prodigious strength. I felt myself a match for the most ferocious
bull in the herd, and I know, had such a bull charged upon me, that
I should have met it unflinchingly and quite coolly, and I know
that I should have killed it.
"I am all right now," she said, looking up at me gratefully. "Let
us go on."
And that the strength in me had quieted her and given her
confidence, filled me with an exultant joy. The youth of the race
seemed burgeoning in me, over-civilized man that I was, and I lived
for myself the old hunting days and forest nights of my remote and
forgotten ancestry. I had much for which to thank Wolf Larsen, was
my thought as we went along the path between the jostling harems.
A quarter of a mile inland we came upon the holluschickie--sleek
young bulls, living out the loneliness of their bachelorhood and
gathering strength against the day when they would fight their way
into the ranks of the Benedicts.
Everything now went smoothly. I seemed to know just what to do and
how to do it. Shouting, making threatening gestures with my club,
and even prodding the lazy ones, I quickly cut out a score of the
young bachelors from their companions. Whenever one made an
attempt to break back toward the water, I headed it off. Maud took
an active part in the drive, and with her cries and flourishings of
the broken oar was of considerable assistance. I noticed, though,
that whenever one looked tired and lagged, she let it slip past.
But I noticed, also, whenever one, with a show of fight, tried to
break past, that her eyes glinted and showed bright, and she rapped
it smartly with her club.
"My, it's exciting!" she cried, pausing from sheer weakness. "I
think I'll sit down."
I drove the little herd (a dozen strong, now, what of the escapes
she had permitted) a hundred yards farther on; and by the time she
joined me I had finished the slaughter and was beginning to skin.
An hour later we went proudly back along the path between the
harems. And twice again we came down the path burdened with skins,
till I thought we had enough to roof the hut. I set the sail, laid
one tack out of the cove, and on the other tack made our own little
"It's just like home-coming," Maud said, as I ran the boat ashore.
I heard her words with a responsive thrill, it was all so dearly
intimate and natural, and I said:
"It seems as though I have lived this life always. The world of
books and bookish folk is very vague, more like a dream memory than
an actuality. I surely have hunted and forayed and fought all the
days of my life. And you, too, seem a part of it. You are--" I
was on the verge of saying, "my woman, my mate," but glibly changed
it to--"standing the hardship well."
But her ear had caught the flaw. She recognized a flight that
midmost broke. She gave me a quick look.
"Not that. You were saying--?"
"That the American Mrs. Meynell was living the life of a savage and
living it quite successfully," I said easily.
"Oh," was all she replied; but I could have sworn there was a note
of disappointment in her voice.
But "my woman, my mate" kept ringing in my head for the rest of the
day and for many days. Yet never did it ring more loudly than that
night, as I watched her draw back the blanket of moss from the
coals, blow up the fire, and cook the evening meal. It must have
been latent savagery stirring in me, for the old words, so bound up
with the roots of the race, to grip me and thrill me. And grip and
thrill they did, till I fell asleep, murmuring them to myself over
and over again.
"It will smell," I said, "but it will keep in the heat and keep out
the rain and snow."
We were surveying the completed seal-skin roof.
"It is clumsy, but it will serve the purpose, and that is the main
thing," I went on, yearning for her praise.
And she clapped her hands and declared that she was hugely pleased.
"But it is dark in here," she said the next moment, her shoulders
shrinking with a little involuntary shiver.
"You might have suggested a window when the walls were going up," I
said. "It was for you, and you should have seen the need of a
"But I never do see the obvious, you know," she laughed back. "And
besides, you can knock a hole in the wall at any time.'
"Quite true; I had not thought of it," I replied, wagging my head
sagely. "But have you thought of ordering the window-glass? Just
call up the firm,--Red, 4451, I think it is,--and tell them what
size and kind of glass you wish."
"That means--" she began.
It was a dark and evil-appearing thing, that hut, not fit for aught
better than swine in a civilized land; but for us, who had known
the misery of the open boat, it was a snug little habitation.
Following the housewarming, which was accomplished by means of
seal-oil and a wick made from cotton calking, came the hunting for
our winter's meat and the building of the second hut. It was a
simple affair, now, to go forth in the morning and return by noon
with a boatload of seals. And then, while I worked at building the
hut, Maud tried out the oil from the blubber and kept a slow fire
under the frames of meat. I had heard of jerking beef on the
plains, and our seal-meat, cut in thin strips and hung in the
smoke, cured excellently.
The second hut was easier to erect, for I built it against the
first, and only three walls were required. But it was work, hard
work, all of it. Maud and I worked from dawn till dark, to the
limit of our strength, so that when night came we crawled stiffly
to bed and slept the animal-like sleep exhaustion. And yet Maud
declared that she had never felt better or stronger in her life. I
knew this was true of myself, but hers was such a lily strength
that I feared she would break down. Often and often, her last-
reserve force gone, I have seen her stretched flat on her back on
the sand in the way she had of resting and recuperating. And then
she would be up on her feet and toiling hard as ever. Where she
obtained this strength was the marvel to me.
"Think of the long rest this winter," was her reply to my
remonstrances. "Why, we'll be clamorous for something to do."
We held a housewarming in my hut the night it was roofed. It was
the end of the third day of a fierce storm which had swung around
the compass from the south-east to the north-west, and which was
then blowing directly in upon us. The beaches of the outer cove
were thundering with the surf, and even in our land-locked inner
cove a respectable sea was breaking. No high backbone of island
sheltered us from the wind, and it whistled and bellowed about the
hut till at times I feared for the strength of the walls. The skin
roof, stretched tightly as a drumhead, I had thought, sagged and
bellied with every gust; and innumerable interstices in the walls,
not so tightly stuffed with moss as Maud had supposed, disclosed
themselves. Yet the seal-oil burned brightly and we were warm and
It was a pleasant evening indeed, and we voted that as a social
function on Endeavour Island it had not yet been eclipsed. Our
minds were at ease. Not only had we resigned ourselves to the
bitter winter, but we were prepared for it. The seals could depart
on their mysterious journey into the south at any time, now, for
all we cared; and the storms held no terror for us. Not only were
we sure of being dry and warm and sheltered from the wind, but we
had the softest and most luxurious mattresses that could be made
from moss. This had been Maud's idea, and she had herself
jealously gathered all the moss. This was to be my first night on
the mattress, and I knew I should sleep the sweeter because she had
As she rose to go she turned to me with the whimsical way she had,
"Something is going to happen--is happening, for that matter. I
feel it. Something is coming here, to us. It is coming now. I
don't know what, but it is coming."
"Good or bad?" I asked.
She shook her head. "I don't know, but it is there, somewhere."
She pointed in the direction of the sea and wind.
"It's a lee shore," I laughed, "and I am sure I'd rather be here
than arriving, a night like this."
"You are not frightened?" I asked, as I stepped to open the door
Her eyes looked bravely into mine.
"And you feel well? perfectly well?"
"Never better," was her answer.
We talked a little longer before she went.
"Good-night, Maud," I said.
"Good-night, Humphrey," she said.
This use of our given names had come about quite as a matter of
course, and was as unpremeditated as it was natural. In that
moment I could have put my arms around her and drawn her to me. I
should certainly have done so out in that world to which we
belonged. As it was, the situation stopped there in the only way
it could; but I was left alone in my little but, glowing warmly
through and through with a pleasant satisfaction; and I knew that a
tie, or a tacit something, existed between us which had not existed
I awoke, oppressed by a mysterious sensation. There seemed
something missing in my environment. But the mystery and
oppressiveness vanished after the first few seconds of waking, when
I identified the missing something as the wind. I had fallen
asleep in that state of nerve tension with which one meets the
continuous shock of sound or movement, and I had awakened, still
tense, bracing myself to meet the pressure of something which no
longer bore upon me.
It was the first night I had spent under cover in several months,
and I lay luxuriously for some minutes under my blankets (for once
not wet with fog or spray), analysing, first, the effect produced
upon me by the cessation of the wind, and next, the joy which was
mine from resting on the mattress made by Maud's hands. When I had
dressed and opened the door, I heard the waves still lapping on the
beach, garrulously attesting the fury of the night. It was a clear
day, and the sun was shining. I had slept late, and I stepped
outside with sudden energy, bent upon making up lost time as
befitted a dweller on Endeavour Island.
And when outside, I stopped short. I believed my eyes without
question, and yet I was for the moment stunned by what they
disclosed to me. There, on the beach, not fifty feet away, bow on,
dismasted, was a black-hulled vessel. Masts and booms, tangled
with shrouds, sheets, and rent canvas, were rubbing gently
alongside. I could have rubbed my eyes as I looked. There was the
home-made galley we had built, the familiar break of the poop, the
low yacht-cabin scarcely rising above the rail. It was the Ghost.
What freak of fortune had brought it here--here of all spots? what
chance of chances? I looked at the bleak, inaccessible wall at my
back and know the profundity of despair. Escape was hopeless, out
of the question. I thought of Maud, asleep there in the hut we had
reared; I remembered her "Good-night, Humphrey"; "my woman, my
mate," went ringing through my brain, but now, alas, it was a knell
that sounded. Then everything went black before my eyes.
Possibly it was the fraction of a second, but I had no knowledge of
how long an interval had lapsed before I was myself again. There
lay the Ghost, bow on to the beach, her splintered bowsprit
projecting over the sand, her tangled spars rubbing against her
side to the lift of the crooning waves. Something must be done,
must be done.
It came upon me suddenly, as strange, that nothing moved aboard.
Wearied from the night of struggle and wreck, all hands were yet
asleep, I thought. My next thought was that Maud and I might yet
escape. If we could take to the boat and make round the point
before any one awoke? I would call her and start. My hand was
lifted at her door to knock, when I recollected the smallness of
the island. We could never hide ourselves upon it. There was
nothing for us but the wide raw ocean. I thought of our snug
little huts, our supplies of meat and oil and moss and firewood,
and I knew that we could never survive the wintry sea and the great
storms which were to come.
So I stood, with hesitant knuckle, without her door. It was
impossible, impossible. A wild thought of rushing in and killing
her as she slept rose in my mind. And then, in a flash, the better
solution came to me. All hands were asleep. Why not creep aboard
the Ghost,--well I knew the way to Wolf Larsen's bunk,--and kill
him in his sleep? After that--well, we would see. But with him
dead there was time and space in which to prepare to do other
things; and besides, whatever new situation arose, it could not
possibly be worse than the present one.
My knife was at my hip. I returned to my hut for the shot-gun,
made sure it was loaded, and went down to the Ghost. With some
difficulty, and at the expense of a wetting to the waist, I climbed
aboard. The forecastle scuttle was open. I paused to listen for
the breathing of the men, but there was no breathing. I almost
gasped as the thought came to me: What if the Ghost is deserted?
I listened more closely. There was no sound. I cautiously
descended the ladder. The place had the empty and musty feel and
smell usual to a dwelling no longer inhabited. Everywhere was a
thick litter of discarded and ragged garments, old sea-boots, leaky
oilskins--all the worthless forecastle dunnage of a long voyage.
Abandoned hastily, was my conclusion, as I ascended to the deck.
Hope was alive again in my breast, and I looked about me with
greater coolness. I noted that the boats were missing. The
steerage told the same tale as the forecastle. The hunters had
packed their belongings with similar haste. The Ghost was
deserted. It was Maud's and mine. I thought of the ship's stores
and the lazarette beneath the cabin, and the idea came to me of
surprising Maud with something nice for breakfast.
The reaction from my fear, and the knowledge that the terrible deed
I had come to do was no longer necessary, made me boyish and eager.
I went up the steerage companion-way two steps at a time, with
nothing distinct in my mind except joy and the hope that Maud would
sleep on until the surprise breakfast was quite ready for her. As
I rounded the galley, a new satisfaction was mine at thought of all
the splendid cooking utensils inside. I sprang up the break of the
poop, and saw--Wolf Larsen. What of my impetus and the stunning
surprise, I clattered three or four steps along the deck before I
could stop myself. He was standing in the companion-way, only his
head and shoulders visible, staring straight at me. His arms were
resting on the half-open slide. He made no movement whatever--
simply stood there, staring at me.
I began to tremble. The old stomach sickness clutched me. I put
one hand on the edge of the house to steady myself. My lips seemed
suddenly dry and I moistened them against the need of speech. Nor
did I for an instant take my eyes off him. Neither of us spoke.
There was something ominous in his silence, his immobility. All my
old fear of him returned and by new fear was increased an hundred-
fold. And still we stood, the pair of us, staring at each other.
I was aware of the demand for action, and, my old helplessness
strong upon me, I was waiting for him to take the initiative.
Then, as the moments went by, it came to me that the situation was
analogous to the one in which I had approached the long-maned bull,
my intention of clubbing obscured by fear until it became a desire
to make him run. So it was at last impressed upon me that I was
there, not to have Wolf Larsen take the initiative, but to take it
I cocked both barrels and levelled the shot-gun at him. Had he
moved, attempted to drop down the companion-way, I know I would
have shot him. But he stood motionless and staring as before. And
as I faced him, with levelled gun shaking in my hands, I had time
to note the worn and haggard appearance of his face. It was as if
some strong anxiety had wasted it. The cheeks were sunken, and
there was a wearied, puckered expression on the brow. And it
seemed to me that his eyes were strange, not only the expression,
but the physical seeming, as though the optic nerves and supporting
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