Part 4 out of 7
"A go," I answered.
His hand went out to mine, and as I shook it heartily I could have
sworn I saw the mocking devil shine up for a moment in his eyes.
We strolled across the poop to the lee side. The boat was close at
hand now, and in desperate plight. Johnson was steering, Leach
bailing. We overhauled them about two feet to their one. Wolf
Larsen motioned Louis to keep off slightly, and we dashed abreast
of the boat, not a score of feet to windward. The Ghost blanketed
it. The spritsail flapped emptily and the boat righted to an even
keel, causing the two men swiftly to change position. The boat
lost headway, and, as we lifted on a huge surge, toppled and fell
into the trough.
It was at this moment that Leach and Johnson looked up into the
faces of their shipmates, who lined the rail amidships. There was
no greeting. They were as dead men in their comrades' eyes, and
between them was the gulf that parts the living and the dead.
The next instant they were opposite the poop, where stood Wolf
Larsen and I. We were falling in the trough, they were rising on
the surge. Johnson looked at me, and I could see that his face was
worn and haggard. I waved my hand to him, and he answered the
greeting, but with a wave that was hopeless and despairing. It was
as if he were saying farewell. I did not see into the eyes of
Leach, for he was looking at Wolf Larsen, the old and implacable
snarl of hatred strong as ever on his face.
Then they were gone astern. The spritsail filled with the wind,
suddenly, careening the frail open craft till it seemed it would
surely capsize. A whitecap foamed above it and broke across in a
snow-white smother. Then the boat emerged, half swamped, Leach
flinging the water out and Johnson clinging to the steering-oar,
his face white and anxious.
Wolf Larsen barked a short laugh in my ear and strode away to the
weather side of the poop. I expected him to give orders for the
Ghost to heave to, but she kept on her course and he made no sign.
Louis stood imperturbably at the wheel, but I noticed the grouped
sailors forward turning troubled faces in our direction. Still the
Ghost tore along, till the boat dwindled to a speck, when Wolf
Larsen's voice rang out in command and he went about on the
Back we held, two miles and more to windward of the struggling
cockle-shell, when the flying jib was run down and the schooner
hove to. The sealing boats are not made for windward work. Their
hope lies in keeping a weather position so that they may run before
the wind for the schooner when it breezes up. But in all that wild
waste there was no refuge for Leach and Johnson save on the Ghost,
and they resolutely began the windward beat. It was slow work in
the heavy sea that was running. At any moment they were liable to
be overwhelmed by the hissing combers. Time and again and
countless times we watched the boat luff into the big whitecaps,
lose headway, and be flung back like a cork.
Johnson was a splendid seaman, and he knew as much about small
boats as he did about ships. At the end of an hour and a half he
was nearly alongside, standing past our stern on the last leg out,
aiming to fetch us on the next leg back.
"So you've changed your mind?" I heard Wolf Larsen mutter, half to
himself, half to them as though they could hear. "You want to come
aboard, eh? Well, then, just keep a-coming."
"Hard up with that helm!" he commanded Oofty-Oofty, the Kanaka, who
had in the meantime relieved Louis at the wheel.
Command followed command. As the schooner paid off, the fore- and
main-sheets were slacked away for fair wind. And before the wind
we were, and leaping, when Johnson, easing his sheet at imminent
peril, cut across our wake a hundred feet away. Again Wolf Larsen
laughed, at the same time beckoning them with his arm to follow.
It was evidently his intention to play with them,--a lesson, I took
it, in lieu of a beating, though a dangerous lesson, for the frail
craft stood in momentary danger of being overwhelmed.
Johnson squared away promptly and ran after us. There was nothing
else for him to do. Death stalked everywhere, and it was only a
matter of time when some one of those many huge seas would fall
upon the boat, roll over it, and pass on.
"'Tis the fear iv death at the hearts iv them," Louis muttered in
my ear, as I passed forward to see to taking in the flying jib and
"Oh, he'll heave to in a little while and pick them up," I answered
cheerfully. "He's bent upon giving them a lesson, that's all."
Louis looked at me shrewdly. "Think so?" he asked.
"Surely," I answered. "Don't you?"
"I think nothing but iv my own skin, these days," was his answer.
"An' 'tis with wonder I'm filled as to the workin' out iv things.
A pretty mess that 'Frisco whisky got me into, an' a prettier mess
that woman's got you into aft there. Ah, it's myself that knows ye
for a blitherin' fool."
"What do you mean?" I demanded; for, having sped his shaft, he was
"What do I mean?" he cried. "And it's you that asks me! 'Tis not
what I mean, but what the Wolf 'll mean. The Wolf, I said, the
"If trouble comes, will you stand by?" I asked impulsively, for he
had voiced my own fear.
"Stand by? 'Tis old fat Louis I stand by, an' trouble enough it'll
be. We're at the beginnin' iv things, I'm tellin' ye, the bare
beginnin' iv things."
"I had not thought you so great a coward," I sneered.
He favoured me with a contemptuous stare. "If I raised never a
hand for that poor fool,"--pointing astern to the tiny sail,--"d'ye
think I'm hungerin' for a broken head for a woman I never laid me
eyes upon before this day?"
I turned scornfully away and went aft.
"Better get in those topsails, Mr. Van Weyden," Wolf Larsen said,
as I came on the poop.
I felt relief, at least as far as the two men were concerned. It
was clear he did not wish to run too far away from them. I picked
up hope at the thought and put the order swiftly into execution. I
had scarcely opened my mouth to issue the necessary commands, when
eager men were springing to halyards and downhauls, and others were
racing aloft. This eagerness on their part was noted by Wolf
Larsen with a grim smile.
Still we increased our lead, and when the boat had dropped astern
several miles we hove to and waited. All eyes watched it coming,
even Wolf Larsen's; but he was the only unperturbed man aboard.
Louis, gazing fixedly, betrayed a trouble in his face he was not
quite able to hide.
The boat drew closer and closer, hurling along through the seething
green like a thing alive, lifting and sending and uptossing across
the huge-backed breakers, or disappearing behind them only to rush
into sight again and shoot skyward. It seemed impossible that it
could continue to live, yet with each dizzying sweep it did achieve
the impossible. A rain-squall drove past, and out of the flying
wet the boat emerged, almost upon us.
"Hard up, there!" Wolf Larsen shouted, himself springing to the
wheel and whirling it over.
Again the Ghost sprang away and raced before the wind, and for two
hours Johnson and Leach pursued us. We hove to and ran away, hove
to and ran away, and ever astern the struggling patch of sail
tossed skyward and fell into the rushing valleys. It was a quarter
of a mile away when a thick squall of rain veiled it from view. It
never emerged. The wind blew the air clear again, but no patch of
sail broke the troubled surface. I thought I saw, for an instant,
the boat's bottom show black in a breaking crest. At the best,
that was all. For Johnson and Leach the travail of existence had
The men remained grouped amidships. No one had gone below, and no
one was speaking. Nor were any looks being exchanged. Each man
seemed stunned--deeply contemplative, as it were, and, not quite
sure, trying to realize just what had taken place. Wolf Larsen
gave them little time for thought. He at once put the Ghost upon
her course--a course which meant the seal herd and not Yokohama
harbour. But the men were no longer eager as they pulled and
hauled, and I heard curses amongst them, which left their lips
smothered and as heavy and lifeless as were they. Not so was it
with the hunters. Smoke the irrepressible related a story, and
they descended into the steerage, bellowing with laughter.
As I passed to leeward of the galley on my way aft I was approached
by the engineer we had rescued. His face was white, his lips were
"Good God! sir, what kind of a craft is this?" he cried.
"You have eyes, you have seen," I answered, almost brutally, what
of the pain and fear at my own heart.
"Your promise?" I said to Wolf Larsen.
"I was not thinking of taking them aboard when I made that
promise," he answered. "And anyway, you'll agree I've not laid my
hands upon them."
"Far from it, far from it," he laughed a moment later.
I made no reply. I was incapable of speaking, my mind was too
confused. I must have time to think, I knew. This woman, sleeping
even now in the spare cabin, was a responsibility, which I must
consider, and the only rational thought that flickered through my
mind was that I must do nothing hastily if I were to be any help to
her at all.
The remainder of the day passed uneventfully. The young slip of a
gale, having wetted our gills, proceeded to moderate. The fourth
engineer and the three oilers, after a warm interview with Wolf
Larsen, were furnished with outfits from the slop-chests, assigned
places under the hunters in the various boats and watches on the
vessel, and bundled forward into the forecastle. They went
protestingly, but their voices were not loud. They were awed by
what they had already seen of Wolf Larsen's character, while the
tale of woe they speedily heard in the forecastle took the last bit
of rebellion out of them.
Miss Brewster--we had learned her name from the engineer--slept on
and on. At supper I requested the hunters to lower their voices,
so she was not disturbed; and it was not till next morning that she
made her appearance. It had been my intention to have her meals
served apart, but Wolf Larsen put down his foot. Who was she that
she should be too good for cabin table and cabin society? had been
But her coming to the table had something amusing in it. The
hunters fell silent as clams. Jock Horner and Smoke alone were
unabashed, stealing stealthy glances at her now and again, and even
taking part in the conversation. The other four men glued their
eyes on their plates and chewed steadily and with thoughtful
precision, their ears moving and wobbling, in time with their jaws,
like the ears of so many animals.
Wolf Larsen had little to say at first, doing no more than reply
when he was addressed. Not that he was abashed. Far from it.
This woman was a new type to him, a different breed from any he had
ever known, and he was curious. He studied her, his eyes rarely
leaving her face unless to follow the movements of her hands or
shoulders. I studied her myself, and though it was I who
maintained the conversation, I know that I was a bit shy, not quite
self-possessed. His was the perfect poise, the supreme confidence
in self, which nothing could shake; and he was no more timid of a
woman than he was of storm and battle.
"And when shall we arrive at Yokohama?" she asked, turning to him
and looking him squarely in the eyes.
There it was, the question flat. The jaws stopped working, the
ears ceased wobbling, and though eyes remained glued on plates,
each man listened greedily for the answer.
"In four months, possibly three if the season closes early," Wolf
She caught her breath and stammered, "I--I thought--I was given to
understand that Yokohama was only a day's sail away. It--" Here
she paused and looked about the table at the circle of
unsympathetic faces staring hard at the plates. "It is not right,"
"That is a question you must settle with Mr. Van Weyden there," he
replied, nodding to me with a mischievous twinkle. "Mr. Van Weyden
is what you may call an authority on such things as rights. Now I,
who am only a sailor, would look upon the situation somewhat
differently. It may possibly be your misfortune that you have to
remain with us, but it is certainly our good fortune."
He regarded her smilingly. Her eyes fell before his gaze, but she
lifted them again, and defiantly, to mine. I read the unspoken
question there: was it right? But I had decided that the part I
was to play must be a neutral one, so I did not answer.
"What do you think?" she demanded.
"That it is unfortunate, especially if you have any engagements
falling due in the course of the next several months. But, since
you say that you were voyaging to Japan for your health, I can
assure you that it will improve no better anywhere than aboard the
I saw her eyes flash with indignation, and this time it was I who
dropped mine, while I felt my face flushing under her gaze. It was
cowardly, but what else could I do?
"Mr. Van Weyden speaks with the voice of authority," Wolf Larsen
I nodded my head, and she, having recovered herself, waited
"Not that he is much to speak of now," Wolf Larsen went on, "but he
has improved wonderfully. You should have seen him when he came on
board. A more scrawny, pitiful specimen of humanity one could
hardly conceive. Isn't that so, Kerfoot?"
Kerfoot, thus directly addressed, was startled into dropping his
knife on the floor, though he managed to grunt affirmation.
"Developed himself by peeling potatoes and washing dishes. Eh,
Again that worthy grunted.
"Look at him now. True, he is not what you would term muscular,
but still he has muscles, which is more than he had when he came
aboard. Also, he has legs to stand on. You would not think so to
look at him, but he was quite unable to stand alone at first."
The hunters were snickering, but she looked at me with a sympathy
in her eyes which more than compensated for Wolf Larsen's
nastiness. In truth, it had been so long since I had received
sympathy that I was softened, and I became then, and gladly, her
willing slave. But I was angry with Wolf Larsen. He was
challenging my manhood with his slurs, challenging the very legs he
claimed to be instrumental in getting for me.
"I may have learned to stand on my own legs," I retorted. "But I
have yet to stamp upon others with them."
He looked at me insolently. "Your education is only half
completed, then," he said dryly, and turned to her.
"We are very hospitable upon the Ghost. Mr. Van Weyden has
discovered that. We do everything to make our guests feel at home,
eh, Mr. Van Weyden?"
"Even to the peeling of potatoes and the washing of dishes," I
answered, "to say nothing to wringing their necks out of very
"I beg of you not to receive false impressions of us from Mr. Van
Weyden," he interposed with mock anxiety. "You will observe, Miss
Brewster, that he carries a dirk in his belt, a--ahem--a most
unusual thing for a ship's officer to do. While really very
estimable, Mr. Van Weyden is sometimes--how shall I say?--er--
quarrelsome, and harsh measures are necessary. He is quite
reasonable and fair in his calm moments, and as he is calm now he
will not deny that only yesterday he threatened my life."
I was well-nigh choking, and my eyes were certainly fiery. He drew
attention to me.
"Look at him now. He can scarcely control himself in your
presence. He is not accustomed to the presence of ladies anyway.
I shall have to arm myself before I dare go on deck with him."
He shook his head sadly, murmuring, "Too bad, too bad," while the
hunters burst into guffaws of laughter.
The deep-sea voices of these men, rumbling and bellowing in the
confined space, produced a wild effect. The whole setting was
wild, and for the first time, regarding this strange woman and
realizing how incongruous she was in it, I was aware of how much a
part of it I was myself. I knew these men and their mental
processes, was one of them myself, living the seal-hunting life,
eating the seal-hunting fare, thinking, largely, the seal-hunting
thoughts. There was for me no strangeness to it, to the rough
clothes, the coarse faces, the wild laughter, and the lurching
cabin walls and swaying sea-lamps.
As I buttered a piece of bread my eyes chanced to rest upon my
hand. The knuckles were skinned and inflamed clear across, the
fingers swollen, the nails rimmed with black. I felt the mattress-
like growth of beard on my neck, knew that the sleeve of my coat
was ripped, that a button was missing from the throat of the blue
shirt I wore. The dirk mentioned by Wolf Larsen rested in its
sheath on my hip. It was very natural that it should be there,--
how natural I had not imagined until now, when I looked upon it
with her eyes and knew how strange it and all that went with it
must appear to her.
But she divined the mockery in Wolf Larsen's words, and again
favoured me with a sympathetic glance. But there was a look of
bewilderment also in her eyes. That it was mockery made the
situation more puzzling to her.
"I may be taken off by some passing vessel, perhaps," she
"There will be no passing vessels, except other sealing-schooners,"
Wolf Larsen made answer.
"I have no clothes, nothing," she objected. "You hardly realize,
sir, that I am not a man, or that I am unaccustomed to the vagrant,
careless life which you and your men seem to lead."
"The sooner you get accustomed to it, the better," he said.
"I'll furnish you with cloth, needles, and thread," he added. "I
hope it will not be too dreadful a hardship for you to make
yourself a dress or two."
She made a wry pucker with her mouth, as though to advertise her
ignorance of dressmaking. That she was frightened and bewildered,
and that she was bravely striving to hide it, was quite plain to
"I suppose you're like Mr. Van Weyden there, accustomed to having
things done for you. Well, I think doing a few things for yourself
will hardly dislocate any joints. By the way, what do you do for a
She regarded him with amazement unconcealed.
"I mean no offence, believe me. People eat, therefore they must
procure the wherewithal. These men here shoot seals in order to
live; for the same reason I sail this schooner; and Mr. Van Weyden,
for the present at any rate, earns his salty grub by assisting me.
Now what do you do?"
She shrugged her shoulders.
"Do you feed yourself? Or does some one else feed you?"
"I'm afraid some one else has fed me most of my life," she laughed,
trying bravely to enter into the spirit of his quizzing, though I
could see a terror dawning and growing in her eyes as she watched
"And I suppose some one else makes your bed for you?"
"I HAVE made beds," she replied.
She shook her head with mock ruefulness.
"Do you know what they do to poor men in the States, who, like you,
do not work for their living?"
"I am very ignorant," she pleaded. "What do they do to the poor
men who are like me?"
"They send them to jail. The crime of not earning a living, in
their case, is called vagrancy. If I were Mr. Van Weyden, who
harps eternally on questions of right and wrong, I'd ask, by what
right do you live when you do nothing to deserve living?"
"But as you are not Mr. Van Weyden, I don't have to answer, do I?"
She beamed upon him through her terror-filled eyes, and the pathos
of it cut me to the heart. I must in some way break in and lead
the conversation into other channels.
"Have you ever earned a dollar by your own labour?" he demanded,
certain of her answer, a triumphant vindictiveness in his voice.
"Yes, I have," she answered slowly, and I could have laughed aloud
at his crestfallen visage. "I remember my father giving me a
dollar once, when I was a little girl, for remaining absolutely
quiet for five minutes."
He smiled indulgently.
"But that was long ago," she continued. "And you would scarcely
demand a little girl of nine to earn her own living."
"At present, however," she said, after another slight pause, "I
earn about eighteen hundred dollars a year."
With one accord, all eyes left the plates and settled on her. A
woman who earned eighteen hundred dollars a year was worth looking
at. Wolf Larsen was undisguised in his admiration.
"Salary, or piece-work?" he asked.
"Piece-work," she answered promptly.
"Eighteen hundred," he calculated. "That's a hundred and fifty
dollars a month. Well, Miss Brewster, there is nothing small about
the Ghost. Consider yourself on salary during the time you remain
She made no acknowledgment. She was too unused as yet to the whims
of the man to accept them with equanimity.
"I forgot to inquire," he went on suavely, "as to the nature of
your occupation. What commodities do you turn out? What tools and
materials do you require?"
"Paper and ink," she laughed. "And, oh! also a typewriter."
"You are Maud Brewster," I said slowly and with certainty, almost
as though I were charging her with a crime.
Her eyes lifted curiously to mine. "How do you know?"
"Aren't you?" I demanded.
She acknowledged her identity with a nod. It was Wolf Larsen's
turn to be puzzled. The name and its magic signified nothing to
him. I was proud that it did mean something to me, and for the
first time in a weary while I was convincingly conscious of a
superiority over him.
"I remember writing a review of a thin little volume--" I had begun
carelessly, when she interrupted me.
"You!" she cried. "You are--"
She was now staring at me in wide-eyed wonder.
I nodded my identity, in turn.
"Humphrey Van Weyden," she concluded; then added with a sigh of
relief, and unaware that she had glanced that relief at Wolf
Larsen, "I am so glad."
"I remember the review," she went on hastily, becoming aware of the
awkwardness of her remark; "that too, too flattering review."
"Not at all," I denied valiantly. "You impeach my sober judgment
and make my canons of little worth. Besides, all my brother
critics were with me. Didn't Lang include your 'Kiss Endured'
among the four supreme sonnets by women in the English language?"
"But you called me the American Mrs. Meynell!"
"Was it not true?" I demanded.
"No, not that," she answered. "I was hurt."
"We can measure the unknown only by the known," I replied, in my
finest academic manner. "As a critic I was compelled to place you.
You have now become a yardstick yourself. Seven of your thin
little volumes are on my shelves; and there are two thicker
volumes, the essays, which, you will pardon my saying, and I know
not which is flattered more, fully equal your verse. The time is
not far distant when some unknown will arise in England and the
critics will name her the English Maud Brewster."
"You are very kind, I am sure," she murmured; and the very
conventionality of her tones and words, with the host of
associations it aroused of the old life on the other side of the
world, gave me a quick thrill--rich with remembrance but stinging
sharp with home-sickness.
"And you are Maud Brewster," I said solemnly, gazing across at her.
"And you are Humphrey Van Weyden," she said, gazing back at me with
equal solemnity and awe. "How unusual! I don't understand. We
surely are not to expect some wildly romantic sea-story from your
"No, I am not gathering material, I assure you," was my answer. "I
have neither aptitude nor inclination for fiction."
"Tell me, why have you always buried yourself in California?" she
next asked. "It has not been kind of you. We of the East have
seen to very little of you--too little, indeed, of the Dean of
American Letters, the Second."
I bowed to, and disclaimed, the compliment. "I nearly met you,
once, in Philadelphia, some Browning affair or other--you were to
lecture, you know. My train was four hours late."
And then we quite forgot where we were, leaving Wolf Larsen
stranded and silent in the midst of our flood of gossip. The
hunters left the table and went on deck, and still we talked. Wolf
Larsen alone remained. Suddenly I became aware of him, leaning
back from the table and listening curiously to our alien speech of
a world he did not know.
I broke short off in the middle of a sentence. The present, with
all its perils and anxieties, rushed upon me with stunning force.
It smote Miss Brewster likewise, a vague and nameless terror
rushing into her eyes as she regarded Wolf Larsen.
He rose to his feet and laughed awkwardly. The sound of it was
"Oh, don't mind me," he said, with a self-depreciatory wave of his
hand. "I don't count. Go on, go on, I pray you."
But the gates of speech were closed, and we, too, rose from the
table and laughed awkwardly.
The chagrin Wolf Larsen felt from being ignored by Maud Brewster
and me in the conversation at table had to express itself in some
fashion, and it fell to Thomas Mugridge to be the victim. He had
not mended his ways nor his shirt, though the latter he contended
he had changed. The garment itself did not bear out the assertion,
nor did the accumulations of grease on stove and pot and pan attest
a general cleanliness.
"I've given you warning, Cooky," Wolf Larsen said, "and now you've
got to take your medicine."
Mugridge's face turned white under its sooty veneer, and when Wolf
Larsen called for a rope and a couple of men, the miserable Cockney
fled wildly out of the galley and dodged and ducked about the deck
with the grinning crew in pursuit. Few things could have been more
to their liking than to give him a tow over the side, for to the
forecastle he had sent messes and concoctions of the vilest order.
Conditions favoured the undertaking. The Ghost was slipping
through the water at no more than three miles an hour, and the sea
was fairly calm. But Mugridge had little stomach for a dip in it.
Possibly he had seen men towed before. Besides, the water was
frightfully cold, and his was anything but a rugged constitution.
As usual, the watches below and the hunters turned out for what
promised sport. Mugridge seemed to be in rabid fear of the water,
and he exhibited a nimbleness and speed we did not dream he
possessed. Cornered in the right-angle of the poop and galley, he
sprang like a cat to the top of the cabin and ran aft. But his
pursuers forestalling him, he doubled back across the cabin, passed
over the galley, and gained the deck by means of the steerage-
scuttle. Straight forward he raced, the boat-puller Harrison at
his heels and gaining on him. But Mugridge, leaping suddenly,
caught the jib-boom-lift. It happened in an instant. Holding his
weight by his arms, and in mid-air doubling his body at the hips,
he let fly with both feet. The oncoming Harrison caught the kick
squarely in the pit of the stomach, groaned involuntarily, and
doubled up and sank backward to the deck.
Hand-clapping and roars of laughter from the hunters greeted the
exploit, while Mugridge, eluding half of his pursuers at the
foremast, ran aft and through the remainder like a runner on the
football field. Straight aft he held, to the poop and along the
poop to the stern. So great was his speed that as he curved past
the corner of the cabin he slipped and fell. Nilson was standing
at the wheel, and the Cockney's hurtling body struck his legs.
Both went down together, but Mugridge alone arose. By some freak
of pressures, his frail body had snapped the strong man's leg like
Parsons took the wheel, and the pursuit continued. Round and round
the decks they went, Mugridge sick with fear, the sailors hallooing
and shouting directions to one another, and the hunters bellowing
encouragement and laughter. Mugridge went down on the fore-hatch
under three men; but he emerged from the mass like an eel, bleeding
at the mouth, the offending shirt ripped into tatters, and sprang
for the main-rigging. Up he went, clear up, beyond the ratlines,
to the very masthead.
Half-a-dozen sailors swarmed to the crosstrees after him, where
they clustered and waited while two of their number, Oofty-Oofty
and Black (who was Latimer's boat-steerer), continued up the thin
steel stays, lifting their bodies higher and higher by means of
It was a perilous undertaking, for, at a height of over a hundred
feet from the deck, holding on by their hands, they were not in the
best of positions to protect themselves from Mugridge's feet. And
Mugridge kicked savagely, till the Kanaka, hanging on with one
hand, seized the Cockney's foot with the other. Black duplicated
the performance a moment later with the other foot. Then the three
writhed together in a swaying tangle, struggling, sliding, and
falling into the arms of their mates on the crosstrees.
The aerial battle was over, and Thomas Mugridge, whining and
gibbering, his mouth flecked with bloody foam, was brought down to
deck. Wolf Larsen rove a bowline in a piece of rope and slipped it
under his shoulders. Then he was carried aft and flung into the
sea. Forty,--fifty,--sixty feet of line ran out, when Wolf Larsen
cried "Belay!" Oofty-Oofty took a turn on a bitt, the rope
tautened, and the Ghost, lunging onward, jerked the cook to the
It was a pitiful spectacle. Though he could not drown, and was
nine-lived in addition, he was suffering all the agonies of half-
drowning. The Ghost was going very slowly, and when her stern
lifted on a wave and she slipped forward she pulled the wretch to
the surface and gave him a moment in which to breathe; but between
each lift the stern fell, and while the bow lazily climbed the next
wave the line slacked and he sank beneath.
I had forgotten the existence of Maud Brewster, and I remembered
her with a start as she stepped lightly beside me. It was her
first time on deck since she had come aboard. A dead silence
greeted her appearance.
"What is the cause of the merriment?" she asked.
"Ask Captain Larsen," I answered composedly and coldly, though
inwardly my blood was boiling at the thought that she should be
witness to such brutality.
She took my advice and was turning to put it into execution, when
her eyes lighted on Oofty-Oofty, immediately before her, his body
instinct with alertness and grace as he held the turn of the rope.
"Are you fishing?" she asked him.
He made no reply. His eyes, fixed intently on the sea astern,
"Shark ho, sir!" he cried.
"Heave in! Lively! All hands tail on!" Wolf Larsen shouted,
springing himself to the rope in advance of the quickest.
Mugridge had heard the Kanaka's warning cry and was screaming
madly. I could see a black fin cutting the water and making for
him with greater swiftness than he was being pulled aboard. It was
an even toss whether the shark or we would get him, and it was a
matter of moments. When Mugridge was directly beneath us, the
stern descended the slope of a passing wave, thus giving the
advantage to the shark. The fin disappeared. The belly flashed
white in swift upward rush. Almost equally swift, but not quite,
was Wolf Larsen. He threw his strength into one tremendous jerk.
The Cockney's body left the water; so did part of the shark's. He
drew up his legs, and the man-eater seemed no more than barely to
touch one foot, sinking back into the water with a splash. But at
the moment of contact Thomas Mugridge cried out. Then he came in
like a fresh-caught fish on a line, clearing the rail generously
and striking the deck in a heap, on hands and knees, and rolling
But a fountain of blood was gushing forth. The right foot was
missing, amputated neatly at the ankle. I looked instantly to Maud
Brewster. Her face was white, her eyes dilated with horror. She
was gazing, not at Thomas Mugridge, but at Wolf Larsen. And he was
aware of it, for he said, with one of his short laughs:
"Man-play, Miss Brewster. Somewhat rougher, I warrant, than what
you have been used to, but still-man-play. The shark was not in
the reckoning. It--"
But at this juncture, Mugridge, who had lifted his head and
ascertained the extent of his loss, floundered over on the deck and
buried his teeth in Wolf Larsen's leg. Wolf Larsen stooped,
coolly, to the Cockney, and pressed with thumb and finger at the
rear of the jaws and below the ears. The jaws opened with
reluctance, and Wolf Larsen stepped free.
"As I was saying," he went on, as though nothing unwonted had
happened, "the shark was not in the reckoning. It was--ahem--shall
we say Providence?"
She gave no sign that she had heard, though the expression of her
eyes changed to one of inexpressible loathing as she started to
turn away. She no more than started, for she swayed and tottered,
and reached her hand weakly out to mine. I caught her in time to
save her from falling, and helped her to a seat on the cabin. I
thought she might faint outright, but she controlled herself.
"Will you get a tourniquet, Mr. Van Weyden," Wolf Larsen called to
I hesitated. Her lips moved, and though they formed no words, she
commanded me with her eyes, plainly as speech, to go to the help of
the unfortunate man. "Please," she managed to whisper, and I could
By now I had developed such skill at surgery that Wolf Larsen, with
a few words of advice, left me to my task with a couple of sailors
for assistants. For his task he elected a vengeance on the shark.
A heavy swivel-hook, baited with fat salt-pork, was dropped
overside; and by the time I had compressed the severed veins and
arteries, the sailors were singing and heaving in the offending
monster. I did not see it myself, but my assistants, first one and
then the other, deserted me for a few moments to run amidships and
look at what was going on. The shark, a sixteen-footer, was
hoisted up against the main-rigging. Its jaws were pried apart to
their greatest extension, and a stout stake, sharpened at both
ends, was so inserted that when the pries were removed the spread
jaws were fixed upon it. This accomplished, the hook was cut out.
The shark dropped back into the sea, helpless, yet with its full
strength, doomed--to lingering starvation--a living death less meet
for it than for the man who devised the punishment.
I knew what it was as she came toward me. For ten minutes I had
watched her talking earnestly with the engineer, and now, with a
sign for silence, I drew her out of earshot of the helmsman. Her
face was white and set; her large eyes, larger than usual what of
the purpose in them, looked penetratingly into mine. I felt rather
timid and apprehensive, for she had come to search Humphrey Van
Weyden's soul, and Humphrey Van Weyden had nothing of which to be
particularly proud since his advent on the Ghost.
We walked to the break of the poop, where she turned and faced me.
I glanced around to see that no one was within hearing distance.
"What is it?" I asked gently; but the expression of determination
on her face did not relax.
"I can readily understand," she began, "that this morning's affair
was largely an accident; but I have been talking with Mr. Haskins.
He tells me that the day we were rescued, even while I was in the
cabin, two men were drowned, deliberately drowned--murdered."
There was a query in her voice, and she faced me accusingly, as
though I were guilty of the deed, or at least a party to it.
"The information is quite correct," I answered. "The two men were
"And you permitted it!" she cried.
"I was unable to prevent it, is a better way of phrasing it," I
replied, still gently.
"But you tried to prevent it?" There was an emphasis on the
"tried," and a pleading little note in her voice.
"Oh, but you didn't," she hurried on, divining my answer. "But why
I shrugged my shoulders. "You must remember, Miss Brewster, that
you are a new inhabitant of this little world, and that you do not
yet understand the laws which operate within it. You bring with
you certain fine conceptions of humanity, manhood, conduct, and
such things; but here you will find them misconceptions. I have
found it so," I added, with an involuntary sigh.
She shook her head incredulously.
"What would you advise, then?" I asked. "That I should take a
knife, or a gun, or an axe, and kill this man?"
She half started back.
"No, not that!"
"Then what should I do? Kill myself?"
"You speak in purely materialistic terms," she objected. "There is
such a thing as moral courage, and moral courage is never without
"Ah," I smiled, "you advise me to kill neither him nor myself, but
to let him kill me." I held up my hand as she was about to speak.
"For moral courage is a worthless asset on this little floating
world. Leach, one of the men who were murdered, had moral courage
to an unusual degree. So had the other man, Johnson. Not only did
it not stand them in good stead, but it destroyed them. And so
with me if I should exercise what little moral courage I may
"You must understand, Miss Brewster, and understand clearly, that
this man is a monster. He is without conscience. Nothing is
sacred to him, nothing is too terrible for him to do. It was due
to his whim that I was detained aboard in the first place. It is
due to his whim that I am still alive. I do nothing, can do
nothing, because I am a slave to this monster, as you are now a
slave to him; because I desire to live, as you will desire to live;
because I cannot fight and overcome him, just as you will not be
able to fight and overcome him."
She waited for me to go on.
"What remains? Mine is the role of the weak. I remain silent and
suffer ignominy, as you will remain silent and suffer ignominy.
And it is well. It is the best we can do if we wish to live. The
battle is not always to the strong. We have not the strength with
which to fight this man; we must dissimulate, and win, if win we
can, by craft. If you will be advised by me, this is what you will
do. I know my position is perilous, and I may say frankly that
yours is even more perilous. We must stand together, without
appearing to do so, in secret alliance. I shall not be able to
side with you openly, and, no matter what indignities may be put
upon me, you are to remain likewise silent. We must provoke no
scenes with this man, nor cross his will. And we must keep smiling
faces and be friendly with him no matter how repulsive it may be."
She brushed her hand across her forehead in a puzzled way, saying,
"Still I do not understand."
"You must do as I say," I interrupted authoritatively, for I saw
Wolf Larsen's gaze wandering toward us from where he paced up and
down with Latimer amidships. "Do as I say, and ere long you will
find I am right."
"What shall I do, then?" she asked, detecting the anxious glance I
had shot at the object of our conversation, and impressed, I
flatter myself, with the earnestness of my manner.
"Dispense with all the moral courage you can," I said briskly.
"Don't arouse this man's animosity. Be quite friendly with him,
talk with him, discuss literature and art with him--he is fond of
such things. You will find him an interested listener and no fool.
And for your own sake try to avoid witnessing, as much as you can,
the brutalities of the ship. It will make it easier for you to act
"I am to lie," she said in steady, rebellious tones, "by speech and
action to lie."
Wolf Larsen had separated from Latimer and was coming toward us. I
"Please, please understand me," I said hurriedly, lowering my
voice. "All your experience of men and things is worthless here.
You must begin over again. I know,--I can see it--you have, among
other ways, been used to managing people with your eyes, letting
your moral courage speak out through them, as it were. You have
already managed me with your eyes, commanded me with them. But
don't try it on Wolf Larsen. You could as easily control a lion,
while he would make a mock of you. He would--I have always been
proud of the fact that I discovered him," I said, turning the
conversation as Wolf Larsen stepped on the poop and joined us.
"The editors were afraid of him and the publishers would have none
of him. But I knew, and his genius and my judgment were vindicated
when he made that magnificent hit with his 'Forge.'"
"And it was a newspaper poem," she said glibly.
"It did happen to see the light in a newspaper," I replied, "but
not because the magazine editors had been denied a glimpse at it."
"We were talking of Harris," I said to Wolf Larsen.
"Oh, yes," he acknowledged. "I remember the 'Forge.' Filled with
pretty sentiments and an almighty faith in human illusions. By the
way, Mr. Van Weyden, you'd better look in on Cooky. He's
complaining and restless."
Thus was I bluntly dismissed from the poop, only to find Mugridge
sleeping soundly from the morphine I had given him. I made no
haste to return on deck, and when I did I was gratified to see Miss
Brewster in animated conversation with Wolf Larsen. As I say, the
sight gratified me. She was following my advice. And yet I was
conscious of a slight shock or hurt in that she was able to do the
thing I had begged her to do and which she had notably disliked.
Brave winds, blowing fair, swiftly drove the Ghost northward into
the seal herd. We encountered it well up to the forty-fourth
parallel, in a raw and stormy sea across which the wind harried the
fog-banks in eternal flight. For days at a time we could never see
the sun nor take an observation; then the wind would sweep the face
of the ocean clean, the waves would ripple and flash, and we would
learn where we were. A day of clear weather might follow, or three
days or four, and then the fog would settle down upon us, seemingly
thicker than ever.
The hunting was perilous; yet the boats, lowered day after day,
were swallowed up in the grey obscurity, and were seen no more till
nightfall, and often not till long after, when they would creep in
like sea-wraiths, one by one, out of the grey. Wainwright--the
hunter whom Wolf Larsen had stolen with boat and men--took
advantage of the veiled sea and escaped. He disappeared one
morning in the encircling fog with his two men, and we never saw
them again, though it was not many days when we learned that they
had passed from schooner to schooner until they finally regained
This was the thing I had set my mind upon doing, but the
opportunity never offered. It was not in the mate's province to go
out in the boats, and though I manoeuvred cunningly for it, Wolf
Larsen never granted me the privilege. Had he done so, I should
have managed somehow to carry Miss Brewster away with me. As it
was, the situation was approaching a stage which I was afraid to
consider. I involuntarily shunned the thought of it, and yet the
thought continually arose in my mind like a haunting spectre.
I had read sea-romances in my time, wherein figured, as a matter of
course, the lone woman in the midst of a shipload of men; but I
learned, now, that I had never comprehended the deeper significance
of such a situation--the thing the writers harped upon and
exploited so thoroughly. And here it was, now, and I was face to
face with it. That it should be as vital as possible, it required
no more than that the woman should be Maud Brewster, who now
charmed me in person as she had long charmed me through her work.
No one more out of environment could be imagined. She was a
delicate, ethereal creature, swaying and willowy, light and
graceful of movement. It never seemed to me that she walked, or,
at least, walked after the ordinary manner of mortals. Hers was an
extreme lithesomeness, and she moved with a certain indefinable
airiness, approaching one as down might float or as a bird on
She was like a bit of Dresden china, and I was continually
impressed with what I may call her fragility. As at the time I
caught her arm when helping her below, so at any time I was quite
prepared, should stress or rough handling befall her, to see her
crumble away. I have never seen body and spirit in such perfect
accord. Describe her verse, as the critics have described it, as
sublimated and spiritual, and you have described her body. It
seemed to partake of her soul, to have analogous attributes, and to
link it to life with the slenderest of chains. Indeed, she trod
the earth lightly, and in her constitution there was little of the
She was in striking contrast to Wolf Larsen. Each was nothing that
the other was, everything that the other was not. I noted them
walking the deck together one morning, and I likened them to the
extreme ends of the human ladder of evolution--the one the
culmination of all savagery, the other the finished product of the
finest civilization. True, Wolf Larsen possessed intellect to an
unusual degree, but it was directed solely to the exercise of his
savage instincts and made him but the more formidable a savage. He
was splendidly muscled, a heavy man, and though he strode with the
certitude and directness of the physical man, there was nothing
heavy about his stride. The jungle and the wilderness lurked in
the uplift and downput of his feet. He was cat-footed, and lithe,
and strong, always strong. I likened him to some great tiger, a
beast of prowess and prey. He looked it, and the piercing glitter
that arose at times in his eyes was the same piercing glitter I had
observed in the eyes of caged leopards and other preying creatures
of the wild.
But this day, as I noted them pacing up and down, I saw that it was
she who terminated the walk. They came up to where I was standing
by the entrance to the companion-way. Though she betrayed it by no
outward sign, I felt, somehow, that she was greatly perturbed. She
made some idle remark, looking at me, and laughed lightly enough;
but I saw her eyes return to his, involuntarily, as though
fascinated; then they fell, but not swiftly enough to veil the rush
of terror that filled them.
It was in his eyes that I saw the cause of her perturbation.
Ordinarily grey and cold and harsh, they were now warm and soft and
golden, and all a-dance with tiny lights that dimmed and faded, or
welled up till the full orbs were flooded with a glowing radiance.
Perhaps it was to this that the golden colour was due; but golden
his eyes were, enticing and masterful, at the same time luring and
compelling, and speaking a demand and clamour of the blood which no
woman, much less Maud Brewster, could misunderstand.
Her own terror rushed upon me, and in that moment of fear--the most
terrible fear a man can experience--I knew that in inexpressible
ways she was dear to me. The knowledge that I loved her rushed
upon me with the terror, and with both emotions gripping at my
heart and causing my blood at the same time to chill and to leap
riotously, I felt myself drawn by a power without me and beyond me,
and found my eyes returning against my will to gaze into the eyes
of Wolf Larsen. But he had recovered himself. The golden colour
and the dancing lights were gone. Cold and grey and glittering
they were as he bowed brusquely and turned away.
"I am afraid," she whispered, with a shiver. "I am so afraid."
I, too, was afraid, and what of my discovery of how much she meant
to me my mind was in a turmoil; but, I succeeded in answering quite
"All will come right, Miss Brewster. Trust me, it will come
She answered with a grateful little smile that sent my heart
pounding, and started to descend the companion-stairs.
For a long while I remained standing where she had left me. There
was imperative need to adjust myself, to consider the significance
of the changed aspect of things. It had come, at last, love had
come, when I least expected it and under the most forbidding
conditions. Of course, my philosophy had always recognized the
inevitableness of the love-call sooner or later; but long years of
bookish silence had made me inattentive and unprepared.
And now it had come! Maud Brewster! My memory flashed back to
that first thin little volume on my desk, and I saw before me, as
though in the concrete, the row of thin little volumes on my
library shelf. How I had welcomed each of them! Each year one had
come from the press, and to me each was the advent of the year.
They had voiced a kindred intellect and spirit, and as such I had
received them into a camaraderie of the mind; but now their place
was in my heart.
My heart? A revulsion of feeling came over me. I seemed to stand
outside myself and to look at myself incredulously. Maud Brewster!
Humphrey Van Weyden, "the cold-blooded fish," the "emotionless
monster," the "analytical demon," of Charley Furuseth's
christening, in love! And then, without rhyme or reason, all
sceptical, my mind flew back to a small biographical note in the
red-bound Who's Who, and I said to myself, "She was born in
Cambridge, and she is twenty-seven years old." And then I said,
"Twenty-seven years old and still free and fancy free?" But how
did I know she was fancy free? And the pang of new-born jealousy
put all incredulity to flight. There was no doubt about it. I was
jealous; therefore I loved. And the woman I loved was Maud
I, Humphrey Van Weyden, was in love! And again the doubt assailed
me. Not that I was afraid of it, however, or reluctant to meet it.
On the contrary, idealist that I was to the most pronounced degree,
my philosophy had always recognized and guerdoned love as the
greatest thing in the world, the aim and the summit of being, the
most exquisite pitch of joy and happiness to which life could
thrill, the thing of all things to be hailed and welcomed and taken
into the heart. But now that it had come I could not believe. I
could not be so fortunate. It was too good, too good to be true.
Symons's lines came into my head:
"I wandered all these years among
A world of women, seeking you."
And then I had ceased seeking. It was not for me, this greatest
thing in the world, I had decided. Furuseth was right; I was
abnormal, an "emotionless monster," a strange bookish creature,
capable of pleasuring in sensations only of the mind. And though I
had been surrounded by women all my days, my appreciation of them
had been aesthetic and nothing more. I had actually, at times,
considered myself outside the pale, a monkish fellow denied the
eternal or the passing passions I saw and understood so well in
others. And now it had come! Undreamed of and unheralded, it had
come. In what could have been no less than an ecstasy, I left my
post at the head of the companion-way and started along the deck,
murmuring to myself those beautiful lines of Mrs. Browning:
"I lived with visions for my company
Instead of men and women years ago,
And found them gentle mates, nor thought to know
A sweeter music than they played to me."
But the sweeter music was playing in my ears, and I was blind and
oblivious to all about me. The sharp voice of Wolf Larsen aroused
"What the hell are you up to?" he was demanding.
I had strayed forward where the sailors were painting, and I came
to myself to find my advancing foot on the verge of overturning a
"Sleep-walking, sunstroke,--what?" he barked.
"No; indigestion," I retorted, and continued my walk as if nothing
untoward had occurred.
Among the most vivid memories of my life are those of the events on
the Ghost which occurred during the forty hours succeeding the
discovery of my love for Maud Brewster. I, who had lived my life
in quiet places, only to enter at the age of thirty-five upon a
course of the most irrational adventure I could have imagined,
never had more incident and excitement crammed into any forty hours
of my experience. Nor can I quite close my ears to a small voice
of pride which tells me I did not do so badly, all things
To begin with, at the midday dinner, Wolf Larsen informed the
hunters that they were to eat thenceforth in the steerage. It was
an unprecedented thing on sealing-schooners, where it is the custom
for the hunters to rank, unofficially as officers. He gave no
reason, but his motive was obvious enough. Horner and Smoke had
been displaying a gallantry toward Maud Brewster, ludicrous in
itself and inoffensive to her, but to him evidently distasteful.
The announcement was received with black silence, though the other
four hunters glanced significantly at the two who had been the
cause of their banishment. Jock Horner, quiet as was his way, gave
no sign; but the blood surged darkly across Smoke's forehead, and
he half opened his mouth to speak. Wolf Larsen was watching him,
waiting for him, the steely glitter in his eyes; but Smoke closed
his mouth again without having said anything.
"Anything to say?" the other demanded aggressively.
It was a challenge, but Smoke refused to accept it.
"About what?" he asked, so innocently that Wolf Larsen was
disconcerted, while the others smiled.
"Oh, nothing," Wolf Larsen said lamely. "I just thought you might
want to register a kick."
"About what?" asked the imperturbable Smoke.
Smoke's mates were now smiling broadly. His captain could have
killed him, and I doubt not that blood would have flowed had not
Maud Brewster been present. For that matter, it was her presence
which enabled. Smoke to act as he did. He was too discreet and
cautious a man to incur Wolf Larsen's anger at a time when that
anger could be expressed in terms stronger than words. I was in
fear that a struggle might take place, but a cry from the helmsman
made it easy for the situation to save itself.
"Smoke ho!" the cry came down the open companion-way.
"How's it bear?" Wolf Larsen called up.
"Dead astern, sir."
"Maybe it's a Russian," suggested Latimer.
His words brought anxiety into the faces of the other hunters. A
Russian could mean but one thing--a cruiser. The hunters, never
more than roughly aware of the position of the ship, nevertheless
knew that we were close to the boundaries of the forbidden sea,
while Wolf Larsen's record as a poacher was notorious. All eyes
centred upon him.
"We're dead safe," he assured them with a laugh. "No salt mines
this time, Smoke. But I'll tell you what--I'll lay odds of five to
one it's the Macedonia."
No one accepted his offer, and he went on: "In which event, I'll
lay ten to one there's trouble breezing up."
"No, thank you," Latimer spoke up. "I don't object to losing my
money, but I like to get a run for it anyway. There never was a
time when there wasn't trouble when you and that brother of yours
got together, and I'll lay twenty to one on that."
A general smile followed, in which Wolf Larsen joined, and the
dinner went on smoothly, thanks to me, for he treated me abominably
the rest of the meal, sneering at me and patronizing me till I was
all a-tremble with suppressed rage. Yet I knew I must control
myself for Maud Brewster's sake, and I received my reward when her
eyes caught mine for a fleeting second, and they said, as
distinctly as if she spoke, "Be brave, be brave."
We left the table to go on deck, for a steamer was a welcome break
in the monotony of the sea on which we floated, while the
conviction that it was Death Larsen and the Macedonia added to the
excitement. The stiff breeze and heavy sea which had sprung up the
previous afternoon had been moderating all morning, so that it was
now possible to lower the boats for an afternoon's hunt. The
hunting promised to be profitable. We had sailed since daylight
across a sea barren of seals, and were now running into the herd.
The smoke was still miles astern, but overhauling us rapidly, when
we lowered our boats. They spread out and struck a northerly
course across the ocean. Now and again we saw a sail lower, heard
the reports of the shot-guns, and saw the sail go up again. The
seals were thick, the wind was dying away; everything favoured a
big catch. As we ran off to get our leeward position of the last
lee boat, we found the ocean fairly carpeted with sleeping seals.
They were all about us, thicker than I had ever seen them before,
in twos and threes and bunches, stretched full length on the
surface and sleeping for all the world like so many lazy young
Under the approaching smoke the hull and upper-works of a steamer
were growing larger. It was the Macedonia. I read her name
through the glasses as she passed by scarcely a mile to starboard.
Wolf Larsen looked savagely at the vessel, while Maud Brewster was
"Where is the trouble you were so sure was breezing up, Captain
Larsen?" she asked gaily.
He glanced at her, a moment's amusement softening his features.
"What did you expect? That they'd come aboard and cut our
"Something like that," she confessed. "You understand, seal-
hunters are so new and strange to me that I am quite ready to
He nodded his head. "Quite right, quite right. Your error is that
you failed to expect the worst."
"Why, what can be worse than cutting our throats?" she asked, with
pretty naive surprise.
"Cutting our purses," he answered. "Man is so made these days that
his capacity for living is determined by the money he possesses."
"'Who steals my purse steals trash,'" she quoted.
"Who steals my purse steals my right to live," was the reply, "old
saws to the contrary. For he steals my bread and meat and bed, and
in so doing imperils my life. There are not enough soup-kitchens
and bread-lines to go around, you know, and when men have nothing
in their purses they usually die, and die miserably--unless they
are able to fill their purses pretty speedily."
"But I fail to see that this steamer has any designs on your
"Wait and you will see," he answered grimly.
We did not have long to wait. Having passed several miles beyond
our line of boats, the Macedonia proceeded to lower her own. We
knew she carried fourteen boats to our five (we were one short
through the desertion of Wainwright), and she began dropping them
far to leeward of our last boat, continued dropping them athwart
our course, and finished dropping them far to windward of our first
weather boat. The hunting, for us, was spoiled. There were no
seals behind us, and ahead of us the line of fourteen boats, like a
huge broom, swept the herd before it.
Our boats hunted across the two or three miles of water between
them and the point where the Macedonia's had been dropped, and then
headed for home. The wind had fallen to a whisper, the ocean was
growing calmer and calmer, and this, coupled with the presence of
the great herd, made a perfect hunting day--one of the two or three
days to be encountered in the whole of a lucky season. An angry
lot of men, boat-pullers and steerers as well as hunters, swarmed
over our side. Each man felt that he had been robbed; and the
boats were hoisted in amid curses, which, if curses had power,
would have settled Death Larsen for all eternity--"Dead and damned
for a dozen iv eternities," commented Louis, his eyes twinkling up
at me as he rested from hauling taut the lashings of his boat.
"Listen to them, and find if it is hard to discover the most vital
thing in their souls," said Wolf Larsen. "Faith? and love? and
high ideals? The good? the beautiful? the true?"
"Their innate sense of right has been violated," Maud Brewster
said, joining the conversation.
She was standing a dozen feet away, one hand resting on the main-
shrouds and her body swaying gently to the slight roll of the ship.
She had not raised her voice, and yet I was struck by its clear and
bell-like tone. Ah, it was sweet in my ears! I scarcely dared
look at her just then, for the fear of betraying myself. A boy's
cap was perched on her head, and her hair, light brown and arranged
in a loose and fluffy order that caught the sun, seemed an aureole
about the delicate oval of her face. She was positively
bewitching, and, withal, sweetly spirituelle, if not saintly. All
my old-time marvel at life returned to me at sight of this splendid
incarnation of it, and Wolf Larsen's cold explanation of life and
its meaning was truly ridiculous and laughable.
"A sentimentalist," he sneered, "like Mr. Van Weyden. Those men
are cursing because their desires have been outraged. That is all.
What desires? The desires for the good grub and soft beds ashore
which a handsome pay-day brings them--the women and the drink, the
gorging and the beastliness which so truly expresses them, the best
that is in them, their highest aspirations, their ideals, if you
please. The exhibition they make of their feelings is not a
touching sight, yet it shows how deeply they have been touched, how
deeply their purses have been touched, for to lay hands on their
purses is to lay hands on their souls."
"'You hardly behave as if your purse had been touched," she said,
"Then it so happens that I am behaving differently, for my purse
and my soul have both been touched. At the current price of skins
in the London market, and based on a fair estimate of what the
afternoon's catch would have been had not the Macedonia hogged it,
the Ghost has lost about fifteen hundred dollars' worth of skins."
"You speak so calmly--" she began.
"But I do not feel calm; I could kill the man who robbed me," he
interrupted. "Yes, yes, I know, and that man my brother--more
His face underwent a sudden change. His voice was less harsh and
wholly sincere as he said:
"You must be happy, you sentimentalists, really and truly happy at
dreaming and finding things good, and, because you find some of
them good, feeling good yourself. Now, tell me, you two, do you
find me good?"
"You are good to look upon--in a way," I qualified.
"There are in you all powers for good," was Maud Brewster's answer.
"There you are!" he cried at her, half angrily. "Your words are
empty to me. There is nothing clear and sharp and definite about
the thought you have expressed. You cannot pick it up in your two
hands and look at it. In point of fact, it is not a thought. It
is a feeling, a sentiment, a something based upon illusion and not
a product of the intellect at all."
As he went on his voice again grew soft, and a confiding note came
into it. "Do you know, I sometimes catch myself wishing that I,
too, were blind to the facts of life and only knew its fancies and
illusions. They're wrong, all wrong, of course, and contrary to
reason; but in the face of them my reason tells me, wrong and most
wrong, that to dream and live illusions gives greater delight. And
after all, delight is the wage for living. Without delight, living
is a worthless act. To labour at living and be unpaid is worse
than to be dead. He who delights the most lives the most, and your
dreams and unrealities are less disturbing to you and more
gratifying than are my facts to me."
He shook his head slowly, pondering.
"I often doubt, I often doubt, the worthwhileness of reason.
Dreams must be more substantial and satisfying. Emotional delight
is more filling and lasting than intellectual delight; and,
besides, you pay for your moments of intellectual delight by having
the blues. Emotional delight is followed by no more than jaded
senses which speedily recuperate. I envy you, I envy you."
He stopped abruptly, and then on his lips formed one of his strange
quizzical smiles, as he added:
"It's from my brain I envy you, take notice, and not from my heart.
My reason dictates it. The envy is an intellectual product. I am
like a sober man looking upon drunken men, and, greatly weary,
wishing he, too, were drunk."
"Or like a wise man looking upon fools and wishing he, too, were a
fool," I laughed.
"Quite so," he said. "You are a blessed, bankrupt pair of fools.
You have no facts in your pocketbook."
"Yet we spend as freely as you," was Maud Brewster's contribution.
"More freely, because it costs you nothing."
"And because we draw upon eternity," she retorted.
"Whether you do or think you do, it's the same thing. You spend
what you haven't got, and in return you get greater value from
spending what you haven't got than I get from spending what I have
got, and what I have sweated to get."
"Why don't you change the basis of your coinage, then?" she queried
He looked at her quickly, half-hopefully, and then said, all
regretfully: "Too late. I'd like to, perhaps, but I can't. My
pocketbook is stuffed with the old coinage, and it's a stubborn
thing. I can never bring myself to recognize anything else as
He ceased speaking, and his gaze wandered absently past her and
became lost in the placid sea. The old primal melancholy was
strong upon him. He was quivering to it. He had reasoned himself
into a spell of the blues, and within few hours one could look for
the devil within him to be up and stirring. I remembered Charley
Furuseth, and knew this man's sadness as the penalty which the
materialist ever pays for his materialism.
"You've been on deck, Mr. Van Weyden," Wolf Larsen said, the
following morning at the breakfast-table, "How do things look?"
"Clear enough," I answered, glancing at the sunshine which streamed
down the open companion-way. "Fair westerly breeze, with a promise
of stiffening, if Louis predicts correctly."
He nodded his head in a pleased way. "Any signs of fog?"
"Thick banks in the north and north-west."
He nodded his head again, evincing even greater satisfaction than
"What of the Macedonia?"
"Not sighted," I answered.
I could have sworn his face fell at the intelligence, but why he
should be disappointed I could not conceive.
I was soon to learn. "Smoke ho!" came the hail from on deck, and
his face brightened.
"Good!" he exclaimed, and left the table at once to go on deck and
into the steerage, where the hunters were taking the first
breakfast of their exile.
Maud Brewster and I scarcely touched the food before us, gazing,
instead, in silent anxiety at each other, and listening to Wolf
Larsen's voice, which easily penetrated the cabin through the
intervening bulkhead. He spoke at length, and his conclusion was
greeted with a wild roar of cheers. The bulkhead was too thick for
us to hear what he said; but whatever it was it affected the
hunters strongly, for the cheering was followed by loud
exclamations and shouts of joy.
From the sounds on deck I knew that the sailors had been routed out
and were preparing to lower the boats. Maud Brewster accompanied
me on deck, but I left her at the break of the poop, where she
might watch the scene and not be in it. The sailors must have
learned whatever project was on hand, and the vim and snap they put
into their work attested their enthusiasm. The hunters came
trooping on deck with shot-guns and ammunition-boxes, and, most
unusual, their rifles. The latter were rarely taken in the boats,
for a seal shot at long range with a rifle invariably sank before a
boat could reach it. But each hunter this day had his rifle and a
large supply of cartridges. I noticed they grinned with
satisfaction whenever they looked at the Macedonia's smoke, which
was rising higher and higher as she approached from the west.
The five boats went over the side with a rush, spread out like the
ribs of a fan, and set a northerly course, as on the preceding
afternoon, for us to follow. I watched for some time, curiously,
but there seemed nothing extraordinary about their behaviour. They
lowered sails, shot seals, and hoisted sails again, and continued
on their way as I had always seen them do. The Macedonia repeated
her performance of yesterday, "hogging" the sea by dropping her
line of boats in advance of ours and across our course. Fourteen
boats require a considerable spread of ocean for comfortable
hunting, and when she had completely lapped our line she continued
steaming into the north-east, dropping more boats as she went.
"What's up?" I asked Wolf Larsen, unable longer to keep my
curiosity in check.
"Never mind what's up," he answered gruffly. "You won't be a
thousand years in finding out, and in the meantime just pray for
plenty of wind."
"Oh, well, I don't mind telling you," he said the next moment.
"I'm going to give that brother of mine a taste of his own
medicine. In short, I'm going to play the hog myself, and not for
one day, but for the rest of the season,--if we're in luck."
"And if we're not?" I queried.
"Not to be considered," he laughed. "We simply must be in luck, or
it's all up with us."
He had the wheel at the time, and I went forward to my hospital in
the forecastle, where lay the two crippled men, Nilson and Thomas
Mugridge. Nilson was as cheerful as could be expected, for his
broken leg was knitting nicely; but the Cockney was desperately
melancholy, and I was aware of a great sympathy for the unfortunate
creature. And the marvel of it was that still he lived and clung
to life. The brutal years had reduced his meagre body to
splintered wreckage, and yet the spark of life within burned
brightly as ever.
"With an artificial foot--and they make excellent ones--you will be
stumping ships' galleys to the end of time," I assured him
But his answer was serious, nay, solemn. "I don't know about wot
you s'y, Mr. Van W'yden, but I do know I'll never rest 'appy till I
see that 'ell-'ound bloody well dead. 'E cawn't live as long as
me. 'E's got no right to live, an' as the Good Word puts it, ''E
shall shorely die,' an' I s'y, 'Amen, an' damn soon at that.'"
When I returned on deck I found Wolf Larsen steering mainly with
one hand, while with the other hand he held the marine glasses and
studied the situation of the boats, paying particular attention to
the position of the Macedonia. The only change noticeable in our
boats was that they had hauled close on the wind and were heading
several points west of north. Still, I could not see the
expediency of the manoeuvre, for the free sea was still intercepted
by the Macedonia's five weather boats, which, in turn, had hauled
close on the wind. Thus they slowly diverged toward the west,
drawing farther away from the remainder of the boats in their line.
Our boats were rowing as well as sailing. Even the hunters were
pulling, and with three pairs of oars in the water they rapidly
overhauled what I may appropriately term the enemy.
The smoke of the Macedonia had dwindled to a dim blot on the north-
eastern horizon. Of the steamer herself nothing was to be seen.
We had been loafing along, till now, our sails shaking half the
time and spilling the wind; and twice, for short periods, we had
been hove to. But there was no more loafing. Sheets were trimmed,
and Wolf Larsen proceeded to put the Ghost through her paces. We
ran past our line of boats and bore down upon the first weather
boat of the other line.
"Down that flying jib, Mr. Van Weyden," Wolf Larsen commanded.
"And stand by to back over the jibs."
I ran forward and had the downhaul of the flying jib all in and
fast as we slipped by the boat a hundred feet to leeward. The
three men in it gazed at us suspiciously. They had been hogging
the sea, and they knew Wolf Larsen, by reputation at any rate. I
noted that the hunter, a huge Scandinavian sitting in the bow, held
his rifle, ready to hand, across his knees. It should have been in
its proper place in the rack. When they came opposite our stern,
Wolf Larsen greeted them with a wave of the hand, and cried:
"Come on board and have a 'gam'!"
"To gam," among the sealing-schooners, is a substitute for the
verbs "to visit," "to gossip." It expresses the garrulity of the
sea, and is a pleasant break in the monotony of the life.
The Ghost swung around into the wind, and I finished my work
forward in time to run aft and lend a hand with the mainsheet.
"You will please stay on deck, Miss Brewster," Wolf Larsen said, as
he started forward to meet his guest. "And you too, Mr. Van
The boat had lowered its sail and run alongside. The hunter,
golden bearded like a sea-king, came over the rail and dropped on
deck. But his hugeness could not quite overcome his
apprehensiveness. Doubt and distrust showed strongly in his face.
It was a transparent face, for all of its hairy shield, and
advertised instant relief when he glanced from Wolf Larsen to me,
noted that there was only the pair of us, and then glanced over his
own two men who had joined him. Surely he had little reason to be
afraid. He towered like a Goliath above Wolf Larsen. He must have
measured six feet eight or nine inches in stature, and I
subsequently learned his weight--240 pounds. And there was no fat
about him. It was all bone and muscle.
A return of apprehension was apparent when, at the top of the
companion-way, Wolf Larsen invited him below. But he reassured
himself with a glance down at his host--a big man himself but
dwarfed by the propinquity of the giant. So all hesitancy
vanished, and the pair descended into the cabin. In the meantime,
his two men, as was the wont of visiting sailors, had gone forward
into the forecastle to do some visiting themselves.
Suddenly, from the cabin came a great, choking bellow, followed by
all the sounds of a furious struggle. It was the leopard and the
lion, and the lion made all the noise. Wolf Larsen was the
"You see the sacredness of our hospitality," I said bitterly to
She nodded her head that she heard, and I noted in her face the
signs of the same sickness at sight or sound of violent struggle
from which I had suffered so severely during my first weeks on the
"Wouldn't it be better if you went forward, say by the steerage
companion-way, until it is over?" I suggested.
She shook her head and gazed at me pitifully. She was not
frightened, but appalled, rather, at the human animality of it.
"You will understand," I took advantage of the opportunity to say,
"whatever part I take in what is going on and what is to come, that
I am compelled to take it--if you and I are ever to get out of this
scrape with our lives."
"It is not nice--for me," I added.
"I understand," she said, in a weak, far-away voice, and her eyes
showed me that she did understand.
The sounds from below soon died away. Then Wolf Larsen came alone
on deck. There was a slight flush under his bronze, but otherwise
he bore no signs of the battle.
"Send those two men aft, Mr. Van Weyden," he said.
I obeyed, and a minute or two later they stood before him. "Hoist
in your boat," he said to them. "Your hunter's decided to stay
aboard awhile and doesn't want it pounding alongside."
"Hoist in your boat, I said," he repeated, this time in sharper
tones as they hesitated to do his bidding.
"Who knows? you may have to sail with me for a time," he said,
quite softly, with a silken threat that belied the softness, as
they moved slowly to comply, "and we might as well start with a
friendly understanding. Lively now! Death Larsen makes you jump
better than that, and you know it!"
Their movements perceptibly quickened under his coaching, and as
the boat swung inboard I was sent forward to let go the jibs. Wolf
Larsen, at the wheel, directed the Ghost after the Macedonia's
second weather boat.
Under way, and with nothing for the time being to do, I turned my
attention to the situation of the boats. The Macedonia's third
weather boat was being attacked by two of ours, the fourth by our
remaining three; and the fifth, turn about, was taking a hand in
the defence of its nearest mate. The fight had opened at long
distance, and the rifles were cracking steadily. A quick, snappy
sea was being kicked up by the wind, a condition which prevented
fine shooting; and now and again, as we drew closer, we could see
the bullets zip-zipping from wave to wave.
The boat we were pursuing had squared away and was running before
the wind to escape us, and, in the course of its flight, to take
part in repulsing our general boat attack.
Attending to sheets and tacks now left me little time to see what
was taking place, but I happened to be on the poop when Wolf Larsen
ordered the two strange sailors forward and into the forecastle.
They went sullenly, but they went. He next ordered Miss Brewster
below, and smiled at the instant horror that leapt into her eyes.
"You'll find nothing gruesome down there," he said, "only an unhurt
man securely made fast to the ring-bolts. Bullets are liable to
come aboard, and I don't want you killed, you know."
Even as he spoke, a bullet was deflected by a brass-capped spoke of
the wheel between his hands and screeched off through the air to
"You see," he said to her; and then to me, "Mr. Van Weyden, will
you take the wheel?"
Maud Brewster had stepped inside the companion-way so that only her
head was exposed. Wolf Larsen had procured a rifle and was
throwing a cartridge into the barrel. I begged her with my eyes to
go below, but she smiled and said:
"We may be feeble land-creatures without legs, but we can show
Captain Larsen that we are at least as brave as he."
He gave her a quick look of admiration.
"I like you a hundred per cent. better for that," he said. "Books,
and brains, and bravery. You are well-rounded, a blue-stocking fit
to be the wife of a pirate chief. Ahem, we'll discuss that later,"
he smiled, as a bullet struck solidly into the cabin wall.
I saw his eyes flash golden as he spoke, and I saw the terror mount
in her own.
"We are braver," I hastened to say. "At least, speaking for
myself, I know I am braver than Captain Larsen."
It was I who was now favoured by a quick look. He was wondering if
I were making fun of him. I put three or four spokes over to
counteract a sheer toward the wind on the part of the Ghost, and
then steadied her. Wolf Larsen was still waiting an explanation,
and I pointed down to my knees.
"You will observe there," I said, "a slight trembling. It is
because I am afraid, the flesh is afraid; and I am afraid in my
mind because I do not wish to die. But my spirit masters the
trembling flesh and the qualms of the mind. I am more than brave.
I am courageous. Your flesh is not afraid. You are not afraid.
On the one hand, it costs you nothing to encounter danger; on the
other hand, it even gives you delight. You enjoy it. You may be
unafraid, Mr. Larsen, but you must grant that the bravery is mine."
"You're right," he acknowledged at once. "I never thought of it in
that way before. But is the opposite true? If you are braver than
I, am I more cowardly than you?"
We both laughed at the absurdity, and he dropped down to the deck
and rested his rifle across the rail. The bullets we had received
had travelled nearly a mile, but by now we had cut that distance in
half. He fired three careful shots. The first struck fifty feet
to windward of the boat, the second alongside; and at the third the
boat-steerer let loose his steering-oar and crumpled up in the
bottom of the boat.
"I guess that'll fix them," Wolf Larsen said, rising to his feet.
"I couldn't afford to let the hunter have it, and there is a chance
the boat-puller doesn't know how to steer. In which case, the
hunter cannot steer and shoot at the same time"
His reasoning was justified, for the boat rushed at once into the
wind and the hunter sprang aft to take the boat-steerer's place.
There was no more shooting, though the rifles were still cracking
merrily from the other boats.
The hunter had managed to get the boat before the wind again, but
we ran down upon it, going at least two feet to its one. A hundred
yards away, I saw the boat-puller pass a rifle to the hunter. Wolf
Larsen went amidships and took the coil of the throat-halyards from
its pin. Then he peered over the rail with levelled rifle. Twice
I saw the hunter let go the steering-oar with one hand, reach for
his rifle, and hesitate. We were now alongside and foaming past.
"Here, you!" Wolf Larsen cried suddenly to the boat-puller. "Take
At the same time he flung the coil of rope. It struck fairly,
nearly knocking the man over, but he did not obey. Instead, he
looked to his hunter for orders. The hunter, in turn, was in a
quandary. His rifle was between his knees, but if he let go the
steering-oar in order to shoot, the boat would sweep around and
collide with the schooner. Also he saw Wolf Larsen's rifle bearing
upon him and knew he would be shot ere he could get his rifle into
"Take a turn," he said quietly to the man.
The boat-puller obeyed, taking a turn around the little forward
thwart and paying the line as it jerked taut. The boat sheered out
with a rush, and the hunter steadied it to a parallel course some
twenty feet from the side of the Ghost.
"Now, get that sail down and come alongside!" Wolf Larsen ordered.
He never let go his rifle, even passing down the tackles with one
hand. When they were fast, bow and stern, and the two uninjured
men prepared to come aboard, the hunter picked up his rifle as if
to place it in a secure position.
"Drop it!" Wolf Larsen cried, and the hunter dropped it as though
it were hot and had burned him.
Once aboard, the two prisoners hoisted in the boat and under Wolf
Larsen's direction carried the wounded boat-steerer down into the
"If our five boats do as well as you and I have done, we'll have a
pretty full crew," Wolf Larsen said to me.
"The man you shot--he is--I hope?" Maud Brewster quavered.
"In the shoulder," he answered. "Nothing serious, Mr. Van Weyden
will pull him around as good as ever in three or four weeks."
"But he won't pull those chaps around, from the look of it," he
added, pointing at the Macedonia's third boat, for which I had been
steering and which was now nearly abreast of us. "That's Horner's
and Smoke's work. I told them we wanted live men, not carcasses.
But the joy of shooting to hit is a most compelling thing, when
once you've learned how to shoot. Ever experienced it, Mr. Van
I shook my head and regarded their work. It had indeed been
bloody, for they had drawn off and joined our other three boats in
the attack on the remaining two of the enemy. The deserted boat
was in the trough of the sea, rolling drunkenly across each comber,
its loose spritsail out at right angles to it and fluttering and
flapping in the wind. The hunter and boat-puller were both lying
awkwardly in the bottom, but the boat-steerer lay across the
gunwale, half in and half out, his arms trailing in the water and
his head rolling from side to side.
"Don't look, Miss Brewster, please don't look," I had begged of
her, and I was glad that she had minded me and been spared the
"Head right into the bunch, Mr. Van Weyden," was Wolf Larsen's
As we drew nearer, the firing ceased, and we saw that the fight was
over. The remaining two boats had been captured by our five, and
the seven were grouped together, waiting to be picked up.
"Look at that!" I cried involuntarily, pointing to the north-east.
The blot of smoke which indicated the Macedonia's position had
"Yes, I've been watching it," was Wolf Larsen's calm reply. He
measured the distance away to the fog-bank, and for an instant
paused to feel the weight of the wind on his cheek. "We'll make
it, I think; but you can depend upon it that blessed brother of
mine has twigged our little game and is just a-humping for us. Ah,
look at that!"
The blot of smoke had suddenly grown larger, and it was very black.
"I'll beat you out, though, brother mine," he chuckled. "I'll beat
you out, and I hope you no worse than that you rack your old
engines into scrap."
When we hove to, a hasty though orderly confusion reigned. The
boats came aboard from every side at once. As fast as the
prisoners came over the rail they were marshalled forward to the
forecastle by our hunters, while our sailors hoisted in the boats,
pell-mell, dropping them anywhere upon the deck and not stopping to
lash them. We were already under way, all sails set and drawing,
and the sheets being slacked off for a wind abeam, as the last boat
lifted clear of the water and swung in the tackles.
There was need for haste. The Macedonia, belching the blackest of
smoke from her funnel, was charging down upon us from out of the
north-east. Neglecting the boats that remained to her, she had
altered her course so as to anticipate ours. She was not running
straight for us, but ahead of us. Our courses were converging like
the sides of an angle, the vertex of which was at the edge of the
fog-bank. It was there, or not at all, that the Macedonia could
hope to catch us. The hope for the Ghost lay in that she should
pass that point before the Macedonia arrived at it.
Wolf Larsen was steering, his eyes glistening and snapping as they
dwelt upon and leaped from detail to detail of the chase. Now he
studied the sea to windward for signs of the wind slackening or
freshening, now the Macedonia; and again, his eyes roved over every
sail, and he gave commands to slack a sheet here a trifle, to come
in on one there a trifle, till he was drawing out of the Ghost the
last bit of speed she possessed. All feuds and grudges were
forgotten, and I was surprised at the alacrity with which the men
who had so long endured his brutality sprang to execute his orders.
Strange to say, the unfortunate Johnson came into my mind as we
lifted and surged and heeled along, and I was aware of a regret
that he was not alive and present; he had so loved the Ghost and
delighted in her sailing powers.
"Better get your rifles, you fellows," Wolf Larsen called to our
hunters; and the five men lined the lee rail, guns in hand, and
The Macedonia was now but a mile away, the black smoke pouring from
her funnel at a right angle, so madly she raced, pounding through
the sea at a seventeen-knot gait--"'Sky-hooting through the brine,"
as Wolf Larsen quoted while gazing at her. We were not making more
than nine knots, but the fog-bank was very near.
A puff of smoke broke from the Macedonia's deck, we heard a heavy
report, and a round hole took form in the stretched canvas of our
mainsail. They were shooting at us with one of the small cannon
which rumour had said they carried on board. Our men, clustering
amidships, waved their hats and raised a derisive cheer. Again
there was a puff of smoke and a loud report, this time the cannon-
ball striking not more than twenty feet astern and glancing twice
from sea to sea to windward ere it sank.
But there was no rifle-firing for the reason that all their hunters
were out in the boats or our prisoners. When the two vessels were
half-a-mile apart, a third shot made another hole in our mainsail.
Then we entered the fog. It was about us, veiling and hiding us in
its dense wet gauze.
The sudden transition was startling. The moment before we had been
leaping through the sunshine, the clear sky above us, the sea
breaking and rolling wide to the horizon, and a ship, vomiting
smoke and fire and iron missiles, rushing madly upon us. And at
once, as in an instant's leap, the sun was blotted out, there was
no sky, even our mastheads were lost to view, and our horizon was
such as tear-blinded eyes may see. The grey mist drove by us like
a rain. Every woollen filament of our garments, every hair of our
heads and faces, was jewelled with a crystal globule. The shrouds
were wet with moisture; it dripped from our rigging overhead; and
on the underside of our booms drops of water took shape in long
swaying lines, which were detached and flung to the deck in mimic
showers at each surge of the schooner. I was aware of a pent,
stifled feeling. As the sounds of the ship thrusting herself
through the waves were hurled back upon us by the fog, so were
one's thoughts. The mind recoiled from contemplation of a world
beyond this wet veil which wrapped us around. This was the world,
the universe itself, its bounds so near one felt impelled to reach
out both arms and push them back. It was impossible, that the rest
could be beyond these walls of grey. The rest was a dream, no more
than the memory of a dream.
It was weird, strangely weird. I looked at Maud Brewster and knew
that she was similarly affected. Then I looked at Wolf Larsen, but
there was nothing subjective about his state of consciousness. His
whole concern was with the immediate, objective present. He still
held the wheel, and I felt that he was timing Time, reckoning the
passage of the minutes with each forward lunge and leeward roll of
"Go for'ard and hard alee without any noise," he said to me in a
low voice. "Clew up the topsails first. Set men at all the
sheets. Let there be no rattling of blocks, no sound of voices.
No noise, understand, no noise."
When all was ready, the word "hard-a-lee" was passed forward to me
from man to man; and the Ghost heeled about on the port tack with
practically no noise at all. And what little there was,--the
slapping of a few reef-points and the creaking of a sheave in a
block or two,--was ghostly under the hollow echoing pall in which
we were swathed.
We had scarcely filled away, it seemed, when the fog thinned
abruptly and we were again in the sunshine, the wide-stretching sea
breaking before us to the sky-line. But the ocean was bare. No
wrathful Macedonia broke its surface nor blackened the sky with her
Wolf Larsen at once squared away and ran down along the rim of the
fog-bank. His trick was obvious. He had entered the fog to
windward of the steamer, and while the steamer had blindly driven
on into the fog in the chance of catching him, he had come about
and out of his shelter and was now running down to re-enter to
leeward. Successful in this, the old simile of the needle in the
haystack would be mild indeed compared with his brother's chance of
finding him. He did not run long. Jibing the fore- and main-sails
and setting the topsails again, we headed back into the bank. As
we entered I could have sworn I saw a vague bulk emerging to
windward. I looked quickly at Wolf Larsen. Already we were
ourselves buried in the fog, but he nodded his head. He, too, had
seen it--the Macedonia, guessing his manoeuvre and failing by a
moment in anticipating it. There was no doubt that we had escaped
"He can't keep this up," Wolf Larsen said. "He'll have to go back
for the rest of his boats. Send a man to the wheel, Mr. Van
Weyden, keep this course for the present, and you might as well set
the watches, for we won't do any lingering to-night."
"I'd give five hundred dollars, though," he added, "just to be
aboard the Macedonia for five minutes, listening to my brother
"And now, Mr. Van Weyden," he said to me when he had been relieved
from the wheel, "we must make these new-comers welcome. Serve out
plenty of whisky to the hunters and see that a few bottles slip
for'ard. I'll wager every man Jack of them is over the side to-
morrow, hunting for Wolf Larsen as contentedly as ever they hunted
for Death Larsen."
"But won't they escape as Wainwright did?" I asked.
He laughed shrewdly. "Not as long as our old hunters have anything
to say about it. I'm dividing amongst them a dollar a skin for all
the skins shot by our new hunters. At least half of their
enthusiasm to-day was due to that. Oh, no, there won't be any
escaping if they have anything to say about it. And now you'd
better get for'ard to your hospital duties. There must be a full
ward waiting for you."