Part 6 out of 7
muscles had suffered strain and slightly twisted the eyeballs.
All this I saw, and my brain now working rapidly, I thought a
thousand thoughts; and yet I could not pull the triggers. I
lowered the gun and stepped to the corner of the cabin, primarily
to relieve the tension on my nerves and to make a new start, and
incidentally to be closer. Again I raised the gun. He was almost
at arm's length. There was no hope for him. I was resolved.
There was no possible chance of missing him, no matter how poor my
marksmanship. And yet I wrestled with myself and could not pull
"Well?" he demanded impatiently.
I strove vainly to force my fingers down on the triggers, and
vainly I strove to say something.
"Why don't you shoot?" he asked.
I cleared my throat of a huskiness which prevented speech. "Hump,"
he said slowly, "you can't do it. You are not exactly afraid. You
are impotent. Your conventional morality is stronger than you.
You are the slave to the opinions which have credence among the
people you have known and have read about. Their code has been
drummed into your head from the time you lisped, and in spite of
your philosophy, and of what I have taught you, it won't let you
kill an unarmed, unresisting man."
"I know it," I said hoarsely.
"And you know that I would kill an unarmed man as readily as I
would smoke a cigar," he went on. "You know me for what I am,--my
worth in the world by your standard. You have called me snake,
tiger, shark, monster, and Caliban. And yet, you little rag
puppet, you little echoing mechanism, you are unable to kill me as
you would a snake or a shark, because I have hands, feet, and a
body shaped somewhat like yours. Bah! I had hoped better things of
He stepped out of the companion-way and came up to me.
"Put down that gun. I want to ask you some questions. I haven't
had a chance to look around yet. What place is this? How is the
Ghost lying? How did you get wet? Where's Maud?--I beg your
pardon, Miss Brewster--or should I say, 'Mrs. Van Weyden'?"
I had backed away from him, almost weeping at my inability to shoot
him, but not fool enough to put down the gun. I hoped,
desperately, that he might commit some hostile act, attempt to
strike me or choke me; for in such way only I knew I could be
stirred to shoot.
"This is Endeavour Island," I said.
"Never heard of it," he broke in.
"At least, that's our name for it," I amended.
"Our?" he queried. "Who's our?"
"Miss Brewster and myself. And the Ghost is lying, as you can see
for yourself, bow on to the beach."
"There are seals here," he said. "They woke me up with their
barking, or I'd be sleeping yet. I heard them when I drove in last
night. They were the first warning that I was on a lee shore.
It's a rookery, the kind of a thing I've hunted for years. Thanks
to my brother Death, I've lighted on a fortune. It's a mint.
What's its bearings?"
"Haven't the least idea," I said. "But you ought to know quite
closely. What were your last observations?"
He smiled inscrutably, but did not answer.
"Well, where's all hands?" I asked. "How does it come that you are
I was prepared for him again to set aside my question, and was
surprised at the readiness of his reply.
"My brother got me inside forty-eight hours, and through no fault
of mine. Boarded me in the night with only the watch on deck.
Hunters went back on me. He gave them a bigger lay. Heard him
offering it. Did it right before me. Of course the crew gave me
the go-by. That was to be expected. All hands went over the side,
and there I was, marooned on my own vessel. It was Death's turn,
and it's all in the family anyway."
"But how did you lose the masts?" I asked.
"Walk over and examine those lanyards," he said, pointing to where
the mizzen-rigging should have been.
"They have been cut with a knife!" I exclaimed.
"Not quite," he laughed. "It was a neater job. Look again."
I looked. The lanyards had been almost severed, with just enough
left to hold the shrouds till some severe strain should be put upon
"Cooky did that," he laughed again. "I know, though I didn't spot
him at it. Kind of evened up the score a bit."
"Good for Mugridge!" I cried.
"Yes, that's what I thought when everything went over the side.
Only I said it on the other side of my mouth."
"But what were you doing while all this was going on?" I asked.
"My best, you may be sure, which wasn't much under the
I turned to re-examine Thomas Mugridge's work.
"I guess I'll sit down and take the sunshine," I heard Wolf Larsen
There was a hint, just a slight hint, of physical feebleness in his
voice, and it was so strange that I looked quickly at him. His
hand was sweeping nervously across his face, as though he were
brushing away cobwebs. I was puzzled. The whole thing was so
unlike the Wolf Larsen I had known.
"How are your headaches?" I asked.
"They still trouble me," was his answer. "I think I have one
coming on now."
He slipped down from his sitting posture till he lay on the deck.
Then he rolled over on his side, his head resting on the biceps of
the under arm, the forearm shielding his eyes from the sun. I
stood regarding him wonderingly.
"Now's your chance, Hump," he said.
"I don't understand," I lied, for I thoroughly understood.
"Oh, nothing," he added softly, as if he were drowsing; "only
you've got me where you want me."
"No, I haven't," I retorted; "for I want you a few thousand miles
away from here."
He chuckled, and thereafter spoke no more. He did not stir as I
passed by him and went down into the cabin. I lifted the trap in
the floor, but for some moments gazed dubiously into the darkness
of the lazarette beneath. I hesitated to descend. What if his
lying down were a ruse? Pretty, indeed, to be caught there like a
rat. I crept softly up the companion-way and peeped at him. He
was lying as I had left him. Again I went below; but before I
dropped into the lazarette I took the precaution of casting down
the door in advance. At least there would be no lid to the trap.
But it was all needless. I regained the cabin with a store of
jams, sea-biscuits, canned meats, and such things,--all I could
carry,--and replaced the trap-door.
A peep at Wolf Larsen showed me that he had not moved. A bright
thought struck me. I stole into his state-room and possessed
myself of his revolvers. There were no other weapons, though I
thoroughly ransacked the three remaining state-rooms. To make
sure, I returned and went through the steerage and forecastle, and
in the galley gathered up all the sharp meat and vegetable knives.
Then I bethought me of the great yachtsman's knife he always
carried, and I came to him and spoke to him, first softly, then
loudly. He did not move. I bent over and took it from his pocket.
I breathed more freely. He had no arms with which to attack me
from a distance; while I, armed, could always forestall him should
he attempt to grapple me with his terrible gorilla arms.
Filling a coffee-pot and frying-pan with part of my plunder, and
taking some chinaware from the cabin pantry, I left Wolf Larsen
lying in the sun and went ashore.
Maud was still asleep. I blew up the embers (we had not yet
arranged a winter kitchen), and quite feverishly cooked the
breakfast. Toward the end, I heard her moving about within the
hut, making her toilet. Just as all was ready and the coffee
poured, the door opened and she came forth.
"It's not fair of you," was her greeting. "You are usurping one of
my prerogatives. You know you I agreed that the cooking should be
"But just this once," I pleaded.
"If you promise not to do it again," she smiled. "Unless, of
course, you have grown tired of my poor efforts."
To my delight she never once looked toward the beach, and I
maintained the banter with such success all unconsciously she
sipped coffee from the china cup, ate fried evaporated potatoes,
and spread marmalade on her biscuit. But it could not last. I saw
the surprise that came over her. She had discovered the china
plate from which she was eating. She looked over the breakfast,
noting detail after detail. Then she looked at me, and her face
turned slowly toward the beach.
"Humphrey!" she said.
The old unnamable terror mounted into her eyes.
"Is--he?" she quavered.
I nodded my head.
We waited all day for Wolf Larsen to come ashore. It was an
intolerable period of anxiety. Each moment one or the other of us
cast expectant glances toward the Ghost. But he did not come. He
did not even appear on deck.
"Perhaps it is his headache," I said. "I left him lying on the
poop. He may lie there all night. I think I'll go and see."
Maud looked entreaty at me.
"It is all right," I assured her. "I shall take the revolvers.
You know I collected every weapon on board."
"But there are his arms, his hands, his terrible, terrible hands!"
she objected. And then she cried, "Oh, Humphrey, I am afraid of
him! Don't go--please don't go!"
She rested her hand appealingly on mine, and sent my pulse
fluttering. My heart was surely in my eyes for a moment. The dear
and lovely woman! And she was so much the woman, clinging and
appealing, sunshine and dew to my manhood, rooting it deeper and
sending through it the sap of a new strength. I was for putting my
arm around her, as when in the midst of the seal herd; but I
considered, and refrained.
"I shall not take any risks," I said. "I'll merely peep over the
bow and see."
She pressed my hand earnestly and let me go. But the space on deck
where I had left him lying was vacant. He had evidently gone
below. That night we stood alternate watches, one of us sleeping
at a time; for there was no telling what Wolf Larsen might do. He
was certainly capable of anything.
The next day we waited, and the next, and still he made no sign.
"These headaches of his, these attacks," Maud said, on the
afternoon of the fourth day; "Perhaps he is ill, very ill. He may
"Or dying," was her afterthought when she had waited some time for
me to speak.
"Better so," I answered.
"But think, Humphrey, a fellow-creature in his last lonely hour."
"Perhaps," I suggested.
"Yes, even perhaps," she acknowledged. "But we do not know. It
would be terrible if he were. I could never forgive myself. We
must do something."
"Perhaps," I suggested again.
I waited, smiling inwardly at the woman of her which compelled a
solicitude for Wolf Larsen, of all creatures. Where was her
solicitude for me, I thought,--for me whom she had been afraid to
have merely peep aboard?
She was too subtle not to follow the trend of my silence. And she
was as direct as she was subtle.
"You must go aboard, Humphrey, and find out," she said. "And if
you want to laugh at me, you have my consent and forgiveness."
I arose obediently and went down the beach.
"Do be careful," she called after me.
I waved my arm from the forecastle head and dropped down to the
deck. Aft I walked to the cabin companion, where I contented
myself with hailing below. Wolf Larsen answered, and as he started
to ascend the stairs I cocked my revolver. I displayed it openly
during our conversation, but he took no notice of it. He appeared
the same, physically, as when last I saw him, but he was gloomy and
silent. In fact, the few words we spoke could hardly be called a
conversation. I did not inquire why he had not been ashore, nor
did he ask why I had not come aboard. His head was all right
again, he said, and so, without further parley, I left him.
Maud received my report with obvious relief, and the sight of smoke
which later rose in the galley put her in a more cheerful mood.
The next day, and the next, we saw the galley smoke rising, and
sometimes we caught glimpses of him on the poop. But that was all.
He made no attempt to come ashore. This we knew, for we still
maintained our night-watches. We were waiting for him to do
something, to show his hand, so to say, and his inaction puzzled
and worried us.
A week of this passed by. We had no other interest than Wolf
Larsen, and his presence weighed us down with an apprehension which
prevented us from doing any of the little things we had planned.
But at the end of the week the smoke ceased rising from the galley,
and he no longer showed himself on the poop. I could see Maud's
solicitude again growing, though she timidly--and even proudly, I
think--forbore a repetition of her request. After all, what
censure could be put upon her? She was divinely altruistic, and
she was a woman. Besides, I was myself aware of hurt at thought of
this man whom I had tried to kill, dying alone with his fellow-
creatures so near. He was right. The code of my group was
stronger than I. The fact that he had hands, feet, and a body
shaped somewhat like mine, constituted a claim which I could not
So I did not wait a second time for Maud to send me. I discovered
that we stood in need of condensed milk and marmalade, and
announced that I was going aboard. I could see that she wavered.
She even went so far as to murmur that they were non-essentials and
that my trip after them might be inexpedient. And as she had
followed the trend of my silence, she now followed the trend of my
speech, and she knew that I was going aboard, not because of
condensed milk and marmalade, but because of her and of her
anxiety, which she knew she had failed to hide.
I took off my shoes when I gained the forecastle head, and went
noiselessly aft in my stocking feet. Nor did I call this time from
the top of the companion-way. Cautiously descending, I found the
cabin deserted. The door to his state-room was closed. At first I
thought of knocking, then I remembered my ostensible errand and
resolved to carry it out. Carefully avoiding noise, I lifted the
trap-door in the floor and set it to one side. The slop-chest, as
well as the provisions, was stored in the lazarette, and I took
advantage of the opportunity to lay in a stock of underclothing.
As I emerged from the lazarette I heard sounds in Wolf Larsen's
state-room. I crouched and listened. The door-knob rattled.
Furtively, instinctively, I slunk back behind the table and drew
and cocked my revolver. The door swung open and he came forth.
Never had I seen so profound a despair as that which I saw on his
face,--the face of Wolf Larsen the fighter, the strong man, the
indomitable one. For all the world like a woman wringing her
hands, he raised his clenched fists and groaned. One fist
unclosed, and the open palm swept across his eyes as though
brushing away cobwebs.
"God! God!" he groaned, and the clenched fists were raised again
to the infinite despair with which his throat vibrated.
It was horrible. I was trembling all over, and I could feel the
shivers running up and down my spine and the sweat standing out on
my forehead. Surely there can be little in this world more awful
than the spectacle of a strong man in the moment when he is utterly
weak and broken.
But Wolf Larsen regained control of himself by an exertion of his
remarkable will. And it was exertion. His whole frame shook with
the struggle. He resembled a man on the verge of a fit. His face
strove to compose itself, writhing and twisting in the effort till
he broke down again. Once more the clenched fists went upward and
he groaned. He caught his breath once or twice and sobbed. Then
he was successful. I could have thought him the old Wolf Larsen,
and yet there was in his movements a vague suggestion of weakness
and indecision. He started for the companion-way, and stepped
forward quite as I had been accustomed to see him do; and yet
again, in his very walk, there seemed that suggestion of weakness
I was now concerned with fear for myself. The open trap lay
directly in his path, and his discovery of it would lead instantly
to his discovery of me. I was angry with myself for being caught
in so cowardly a position, crouching on the floor. There was yet
time. I rose swiftly to my feet, and, I know, quite unconsciously
assumed a defiant attitude. He took no notice of me. Nor did he
notice the open trap. Before I could grasp the situation, or act,
he had walked right into the trap. One foot was descending into
the opening, while the other foot was just on the verge of
beginning the uplift. But when the descending foot missed the
solid flooring and felt vacancy beneath, it was the old Wolf Larsen
and the tiger muscles that made the falling body spring across the
opening, even as it fell, so that he struck on his chest and
stomach, with arms outstretched, on the floor of the opposite side.
The next instant he had drawn up his legs and rolled clear. But he
rolled into my marmalade and underclothes and against the trap-
The expression on his face was one of complete comprehension. But
before I could guess what he had comprehended, he had dropped the
trap-door into place, closing the lazarette. Then I understood.
He thought he had me inside. Also, he was blind, blind as a bat.
I watched him, breathing carefully so that he should not hear me.
He stepped quickly to his state-room. I saw his hand miss the
door-knob by an inch, quickly fumble for it, and find it. This was
my chance. I tiptoed across the cabin and to the top of the
stairs. He came back, dragging a heavy sea-chest, which he
deposited on top of the trap. Not content with this he fetched a
second chest and placed it on top of the first. Then he gathered
up the marmalade and underclothes and put them on the table. When
he started up the companion-way, I retreated, silently rolling over
on top of the cabin.
He shoved the slide part way back and rested his arms on it, his
body still in the companion-way. His attitude was of one looking
forward the length of the schooner, or staring, rather, for his
eyes were fixed and unblinking. I was only five feet away and
directly in what should have been his line of vision. It was
uncanny. I felt myself a ghost, what of my invisibility. I waved
my hand back and forth, of course without effect; but when the
moving shadow fell across his face I saw at once that he was
susceptible to the impression. His face became more expectant and
tense as he tried to analyze and identify the impression. He knew
that he had responded to something from without, that his
sensibility had been touched by a changing something in his
environment; but what it was he could not discover. I ceased
waving my hand, so that the shadow remained stationary. He slowly
moved his head back and forth under it and turned from side to
side, now in the sunshine, now in the shade, feeling the shadow, as
it were, testing it by sensation.
I, too, was busy, trying to reason out how he was aware of the
existence of so intangible a thing as a shadow. If it were his
eyeballs only that were affected, or if his optic nerve were not
wholly destroyed, the explanation was simple. If otherwise, then
the only conclusion I could reach was that the sensitive skin
recognized the difference of temperature between shade and
sunshine. Or, perhaps,--who can tell?--it was that fabled sixth
sense which conveyed to him the loom and feel of an object close at
Giving over his attempt to determine the shadow, he stepped on deck
and started forward, walking with a swiftness and confidence which
surprised me. And still there was that hint of the feebleness of
the blind in his walk. I knew it now for what it was.
To my amused chagrin, he discovered my shoes on the forecastle head
and brought them back with him into the galley. I watched him
build the fire and set about cooking food for himself; then I stole
into the cabin for my marmalade and underclothes, slipped back past
the galley, and climbed down to the beach to deliver my barefoot
"It's too bad the Ghost has lost her masts. Why we could sail away
in her. Don't you think we could, Humphrey?"
I sprang excitedly to my feet.
"I wonder, I wonder," I repeated, pacing up and down.
Maud's eyes were shining with anticipation as they followed me.
She had such faith in me! And the thought of it was so much added
power. I remembered Michelet's "To man, woman is as the earth was
to her legendary son; he has but to fall down and kiss her breast
and he is strong again." For the first time I knew the wonderful
truth of his words. Why, I was living them. Maud was all this to
me, an unfailing, source of strength and courage. I had but to
look at her, or think of her, and be strong again.
"It can be done, it can be done," I was thinking and asserting
aloud. "What men have done, I can do; and if they have never done
this before, still I can do it."
"What? for goodness' sake," Maud demanded. "Do be merciful. What
is it you can do?"
"We can do it," I amended. "Why, nothing else than put the masts
back into the Ghost and sail away."
"Humphrey!" she exclaimed.
And I felt as proud of my conception as if it were already a fact
"But how is it possible to be done?" she asked.
"I don't know," was my answer. "I know only that I am capable of
doing anything these days."
I smiled proudly at her--too proudly, for she dropped her eyes and
was for the moment silent.
"But there is Captain Larsen," she objected.
"Blind and helpless," I answered promptly, waving him aside as a
"But those terrible hands of his! You know how he leaped across
the opening of the lazarette."
"And you know also how I crept about and avoided him," I contended
"And lost your shoes."
"You'd hardly expect them to avoid Wolf Larsen without my feet
inside of them."
We both laughed, and then went seriously to work constructing the
plan whereby we were to step the masts of the Ghost and return to
the world. I remembered hazily the physics of my school days,
while the last few months had given me practical experience with
mechanical purchases. I must say, though, when we walked down to
the Ghost to inspect more closely the task before us, that the
sight of the great masts lying in the water almost disheartened me.
Where were we to begin? If there had been one mast standing,
something high up to which to fasten blocks and tackles! But there
was nothing. It reminded me of the problem of lifting oneself by
one's boot-straps. I understood the mechanics of levers; but where
was I to get a fulcrum?
There was the mainmast, fifteen inches in diameter at what was now
the butt, still sixty-five feet in length, and weighing, I roughly
calculated, at least three thousand pounds. And then came the
foremast, larger in diameter, and weighing surely thirty-five
hundred pounds. Where was I to begin? Maud stood silently by my
side, while I evolved in my mind the contrivance known among
sailors as "shears." But, though known to sailors, I invented it
there on Endeavour Island. By crossing and lashing the ends of two
spars, and then elevating them in the air like an inverted "V," I
could get a point above the deck to which to make fast my hoisting
tackle. To this hoisting tackle I could, if necessary, attach a
second hoisting tackle. And then there was the windlass!
Maud saw that I had achieved a solution, and her eyes warmed
"What are you going to do?" she asked.
"Clear that raffle," I answered, pointing to the tangled wreckage
Ah, the decisiveness, the very sound of the words, was good in my
ears. "Clear that raffle!" Imagine so salty a phrase on the lips
of the Humphrey Van Weyden of a few months gone!
There must have been a touch of the melodramatic in my pose and
voice, for Maud smiled. Her appreciation of the ridiculous was
keen, and in all things she unerringly saw and felt, where it
existed, the touch of sham, the overshading, the overtone. It was
this which had given poise and penetration to her own work and made
her of worth to the world. The serious critic, with the sense of
humour and the power of expression, must inevitably command the
world's ear. And so it was that she had commanded. Her sense of
humour was really the artist's instinct for proportion.
"I'm sure I've heard it before, somewhere, in books," she murmured
I had an instinct for proportion myself, and I collapsed forthwith,
descending from the dominant pose of a master of matter to a state
of humble confusion which was, to say the least, very miserable.
Her hand leapt out at once to mine.
"I'm so sorry," she said.
"No need to be," I gulped. "It does me good. There's too much of
the schoolboy in me. All of which is neither here nor there. What
we've got to do is actually and literally to clear that raffle. If
you'll come with me in the boat, we'll get to work and straighten
"'When the topmen clear the raffle with their clasp-knives in their
teeth,'" she quoted at me; and for the rest of the afternoon we
made merry over our labour.
Her task was to hold the boat in position while I worked at the
tangle. And such a tangle--halyards, sheets, guys, down-hauls,
shrouds, stays, all washed about and back and forth and through,
and twined and knotted by the sea. I cut no more than was
necessary, and what with passing the long ropes under and around
the booms and masts, of unreeving the halyards and sheets, of
coiling down in the boat and uncoiling in order to pass through
another knot in the bight, I was soon wet to the skin.
The sails did require some cutting, and the canvas, heavy with
water, tried my strength severely; but I succeeded before nightfall
in getting it all spread out on the beach to dry. We were both
very tired when we knocked off for supper, and we had done good
work, too, though to the eye it appeared insignificant.
Next morning, with Maud as able assistant, I went into the hold of
the Ghost to clear the steps of the mast-butts. We had no more
than begun work when the sound of my knocking and hammering brought
"Hello below!" he cried down the open hatch.
The sound of his voice made Maud quickly draw close to me, as for
protection, and she rested one hand on my arm while we parleyed.
"Hello on deck," I replied. "Good-morning to you."
"What are you doing down there?" he demanded. "Trying to scuttle
my ship for me?"
"Quite the opposite; I'm repairing her," was my answer.
"But what in thunder are you repairing?" There was puzzlement in
"Why, I'm getting everything ready for re-stepping the masts," I
replied easily, as though it were the simplest project imaginable.
"It seems as though you're standing on your own legs at last,
Hump," we heard him say; and then for some time he was silent.
"But I say, Hump," he called down. "You can't do it."
"Oh, yes, I can," I retorted. "I'm doing it now."
"But this is my vessel, my particular property. What if I forbid
"You forget," I replied. "You are no longer the biggest bit of the
ferment. You were, once, and able to eat me, as you were pleased
to phrase it; but there has been a diminishing, and I am now able
to eat you. The yeast has grown stale."
He gave a short, disagreeable laugh. "I see you're working my
philosophy back on me for all it is worth. But don't make the
mistake of under-estimating me. For your own good I warn you."
"Since when have you become a philanthropist?" I queried.
"Confess, now, in warning me for my own good, that you are very
He ignored my sarcasm, saying, "Suppose I clap the hatch on, now?
You won't fool me as you did in the lazarette."
"Wolf Larsen," I said sternly, for the first time addressing him by
this his most familiar name, "I am unable to shoot a helpless,
unresisting man. You have proved that to my satisfaction as well
as yours. But I warn you now, and not so much for your own good as
for mine, that I shall shoot you the moment you attempt a hostile
act. I can shoot you now, as I stand here; and if you are so
minded, just go ahead and try to clap on the hatch."
"Nevertheless, I forbid you, I distinctly forbid your tampering
with my ship."
"But, man!" I expostulated, "you advance the fact that it is your
ship as though it were a moral right. You have never considered
moral rights in your dealings with others. You surely do not dream
that I'll consider them in dealing with you?"
I had stepped underneath the open hatchway so that I could see him.
The lack of expression on his face, so different from when I had
watched him unseen, was enhanced by the unblinking, staring eyes.
It was not a pleasant face to look upon.
"And none so poor, not even Hump, to do him reverence," he sneered.
The sneer was wholly in his voice. His face remained
expressionless as ever.
"How do you do, Miss Brewster," he said suddenly, after a pause.
I started. She had made no noise whatever, had not even moved.
Could it be that some glimmer of vision remained to him? or that
his vision was coming back?
"How do you do, Captain Larsen," she answered. "Pray, how did you
know I was here?"
"Heard you breathing, of course. I say, Hump's improving, don't
you think so?"
"I don't know," she answered, smiling at me. "I have never seen
"You should have seen him before, then."
"Wolf Larsen, in large doses," I murmured, "before and after
"I want to tell you again, Hump," he said threateningly, "that
you'd better leave things alone."
"But don't you care to escape as well as we?" I asked
"No," was his answer. "I intend dying here."
"Well, we don't," I concluded defiantly, beginning again my
knocking and hammering.
Next day, the mast-steps clear and everything in readiness, we
started to get the two topmasts aboard. The maintopmast was over
thirty feet in length, the foretopmast nearly thirty, and it was of
these that I intended making the shears. It was puzzling work.
Fastening one end of a heavy tackle to the windlass, and with the
other end fast to the butt of the foretopmast, I began to heave.
Maud held the turn on the windlass and coiled down the slack.
We were astonished at the ease with which the spar was lifted. It
was an improved crank windlass, and the purchase it gave was
enormous. Of course, what it gave us in power we paid for in
distance; as many times as it doubled my strength, that many times
was doubled the length of rope I heaved in. The tackle dragged
heavily across the rail, increasing its drag as the spar arose more
and more out of the water, and the exertion on the windlass grew
But when the butt of the topmast was level with the rail,
everything came to a standstill.
"I might have known it," I said impatiently. "Now we have to do it
all over again."
"Why not fasten the tackle part way down the mast?" Maud suggested.
"It's what I should have done at first," I answered, hugely
disgusted with myself.
Slipping off a turn, I lowered the mast back into the water and
fastened the tackle a third of the way down from the butt. In an
hour, what of this and of rests between the heaving, I had hoisted
it to the point where I could hoist no more. Eight feet of the
butt was above the rail, and I was as far away as ever from getting
the spar on board. I sat down and pondered the problem. It did
not take long. I sprang jubilantly to my feet.
"Now I have it!" I cried. "I ought to make the tackle fast at the
point of balance. And what we learn of this will serve us with
everything else we have to hoist aboard."
Once again I undid all my work by lowering the mast into the water.
But I miscalculated the point of balance, so that when I heaved the
top of the mast came up instead of the butt. Maud looked despair,
but I laughed and said it would do just as well.
Instructing her how to hold the turn and be ready to slack away at
command, I laid hold of the mast with my hands and tried to balance
it inboard across the rail. When I thought I had it I cried to her
to slack away; but the spar righted, despite my efforts, and
dropped back toward the water. Again I heaved it up to its old
position, for I had now another idea. I remembered the watch-
tackle--a small double and single block affair--and fetched it.
While I was rigging it between the top of the spar and the opposite
rail, Wolf Larsen came on the scene. We exchanged nothing more
than good-mornings, and, though he could not see, he sat on the
rail out of the way and followed by the sound all that I did.
Again instructing Maud to slack away at the windlass when I gave
the word, I proceeded to heave on the watch-tackle. Slowly the
mast swung in until it balanced at right angles across the rail;
and then I discovered to my amazement that there was no need for
Maud to slack away. In fact, the very opposite was necessary.
Making the watch-tackle fast, I hove on the windlass and brought in
the mast, inch by inch, till its top tilted down to the deck and
finally its whole length lay on the deck.
I looked at my watch. It was twelve o'clock. My back was aching
sorely, and I felt extremely tired and hungry. And there on the
deck was a single stick of timber to show for a whole morning's
work. For the first time I thoroughly realized the extent of the
task before us. But I was learning, I was learning. The afternoon
would show far more accomplished. And it did; for we returned at
one o'clock, rested and strengthened by a hearty dinner.
In less than an hour I had the maintopmast on deck and was
constructing the shears. Lashing the two topmasts together, and
making allowance for their unequal length, at the point of
intersection I attached the double block of the main throat-
halyards. This, with the single block and the throat-halyards
themselves, gave me a hoisting tackle. To prevent the butts of the
masts from slipping on the deck, I nailed down thick cleats.
Everything in readiness, I made a line fast to the apex of the
shears and carried it directly to the windlass. I was growing to
have faith in that windlass, for it gave me power beyond all
expectation. As usual, Maud held the turn while I heaved. The
shears rose in the air.
Then I discovered I had forgotten guy-ropes. This necessitated my
climbing the shears, which I did twice, before I finished guying it
fore and aft and to either side. Twilight had set in by the time
this was accomplished. Wolf Larsen, who had sat about and listened
all afternoon and never opened his mouth, had taken himself off to
the galley and started his supper. I felt quite stiff across the
small of the back, so much so that I straightened up with an effort
and with pain. I looked proudly at my work. It was beginning to
show. I was wild with desire, like a child with a new toy, to
hoist something with my shears.
"I wish it weren't so late," I said. "I'd like to see how it
"Don't be a glutton, Humphrey," Maud chided me. "Remember, to-
morrow is coming, and you're so tired now that you can hardly
"And you?" I said, with sudden solicitude. "You must be very
tired. You have worked hard and nobly. I am proud of you, Maud."
"Not half so proud as I am of you, nor with half the reason," she
answered, looking me straight in the eyes for a moment with an
expression in her own and a dancing, tremulous light which I had
not seen before and which gave me a pang of quick delight, I know
not why, for I did not understand it. Then she dropped her eyes,
to lift them again, laughing.
"If our friends could see us now," she said. "Look at us. Have
you ever paused for a moment to consider our appearance?"
"Yes, I have considered yours, frequently," I answered, puzzling
over what I had seen in her eyes and puzzled by her sudden change
"Mercy!" she cried. "And what do I look like, pray?"
"A scarecrow, I'm afraid," I replied. "Just glance at your
draggled skirts, for instance. Look at those three-cornered tears.
And such a waist! It would not require a Sherlock Holmes to deduce
that you have been cooking over a camp-fire, to say nothing of
trying out seal-blubber. And to cap it all, that cap! And all
that is the woman who wrote 'A Kiss Endured.'"
She made me an elaborate and stately courtesy, and said, "As for
And yet, through the five minutes of banter which followed, there
was a serious something underneath the fun which I could not but
relate to the strange and fleeting expression I had caught in her
eyes. What was it? Could it be that our eyes were speaking beyond
the will of our speech? My eyes had spoken, I knew, until I had
found the culprits out and silenced them. This had occurred
several times. But had she seen the clamour in them and
understood? And had her eyes so spoken to me? What else could
that expression have meant--that dancing, tremulous light, and a
something more which words could not describe. And yet it could
not be. It was impossible. Besides, I was not skilled in the
speech of eyes. I was only Humphrey Van Weyden, a bookish fellow
who loved. And to love, and to wait and win love, that surely was
glorious enough for me. And thus I thought, even as we chaffed
each other's appearance, until we arrived ashore and there were
other things to think about.
"It's a shame, after working hard all day, that we cannot have an
uninterrupted night's sleep," I complained, after supper.
"But there can be no danger now? from a blind man?" she queried.
"I shall never be able to trust him," I averred, "and far less now
that he is blind. The liability is that his part helplessness will
make him more malignant than ever. I know what I shall do to-
morrow, the first thing--run out a light anchor and kedge the
schooner off the beach. And each night when we come ashore in the
boat, Mr. Wolf Larsen will be left a prisoner on board. So this
will be the last night we have to stand watch, and because of that
it will go the easier."
We were awake early and just finishing breakfast as daylight came.
"Oh, Humphrey!" I heard Maud cry in dismay and suddenly stop.
I looked at her. She was gazing at the Ghost. I followed her
gaze, but could see nothing unusual. She looked at me, and I
looked inquiry back.
"The shears," she said, and her voice trembled.
I had forgotten their existence. I looked again, but could not see
"If he has--" I muttered savagely.
She put her hand sympathetically on mine, and said, "You will have
to begin over again."
"Oh, believe me, my anger means nothing; I could not hurt a fly," I
smiled back bitterly. "And the worst of it is, he knows it. You
are right. If he has destroyed the shears, I shall do nothing
except begin over again."
"But I'll stand my watch on board hereafter," I blurted out a
moment later. "And if he interferes--"
"But I dare not stay ashore all night alone," Maud was saying when
I came back to myself. "It would be so much nicer if he would be
friendly with us and help us. We could all live comfortably
"We will," I asserted, still savagely, for the destruction of my
beloved shears had hit me hard. "That is, you and I will live
aboard, friendly or not with Wolf Larsen."
"It's childish," I laughed later, "for him to do such things, and
for me to grow angry over them, for that matter."
But my heart smote me when we climbed aboard and looked at the
havoc he had done. The shears were gone altogether. The guys had
been slashed right and left. The throat-halyards which I had
rigged were cut across through every part. And he knew I could not
splice. A thought struck me. I ran to the windlass. It would not
work. He had broken it. We looked at each other in consternation.
Then I ran to the side. The masts, booms, and gaffs I had cleared
were gone. He had found the lines which held them, and cast them
Tears were in Maud's eyes, and I do believe they were for me. I
could have wept myself. Where now was our project of remasting the
Ghost? He had done his work well. I sat down on the hatch-combing
and rested my chin on my hands in black despair.
"He deserves to die," I cried out; "and God forgive me, I am not
man enough to be his executioner."
But Maud was by my side, passing her hand soothingly through my
hair as though I were a child, and saying, "There, there; it will
all come right. We are in the right, and it must come right."
I remembered Michelet and leaned my head against her; and truly I
became strong again. The blessed woman was an unfailing fount of
power to me. What did it matter? Only a set-back, a delay. The
tide could not have carried the masts far to seaward, and there had
been no wind. It meant merely more work to find them and tow them
back. And besides, it was a lesson. I knew what to expect. He
might have waited and destroyed our work more effectually when we
had more accomplished.
"Here he comes now," she whispered.
I glanced up. He was strolling leisurely along the poop on the
"Take no notice of him," I whispered. "He's coming to see how we
take it. Don't let him know that we know. We can deny him that
satisfaction. Take off your shoes--that's right--and carry them in
And then we played hide-and-seek with the blind man. As he came up
the port side we slipped past on the starboard; and from the poop
we watched him turn and start aft on our track.
He must have known, somehow, that we were on board, for he said
"Good-morning" very confidently, and waited, for the greeting to be
returned. Then he strolled aft, and we slipped forward.
"Oh, I know you're aboard," he called out, and I could see him
listen intently after he had spoken.
It reminded me of the great hoot-owl, listening, after its booming
cry, for the stir of its frightened prey. But we did not fir, and
we moved only when he moved. And so we dodged about the deck, hand
in hand, like a couple of children chased by a wicked ogre, till
Wolf Larsen, evidently in disgust, left the deck for the cabin.
There was glee in our eyes, and suppressed titters in our mouths,
as we put on our shoes and clambered over the side into the boat.
And as I looked into Maud's clear brown eyes I forgot the evil he
had done, and I knew only that I loved her, and that because of her
the strength was mine to win our way back to the world.
For two days Maud and I ranged the sea and explored the beaches in
search of the missing masts. But it was not till the third day
that we found them, all of them, the shears included, and, of all
perilous places, in the pounding surf of the grim south-western
promontory. And how we worked! At the dark end of the first day
we returned, exhausted, to our little cove, towing the mainmast
behind us. And we had been compelled to row, in a dead calm,
practically every inch of the way.
Another day of heart-breaking and dangerous toil saw us in camp
with the two topmasts to the good. The day following I was
desperate, and I rafted together the foremast, the fore and main
booms, and the fore and main gaffs. The wind was favourable, and I
had thought to tow them back under sail, but the wind baffled, then
died away, and our progress with the oars was a snail's pace. And
it was such dispiriting effort. To throw one's whole strength and
weight on the oars and to feel the boat checked in its forward
lunge by the heavy drag behind, was not exactly exhilarating.
Night began to fall, and to make matters worse, the wind sprang up
ahead. Not only did all forward motion cease, but we began to
drift back and out to sea. I struggled at the oars till I was
played out. Poor Maud, whom I could never prevent from working to
the limit of her strength, lay weakly back in the stern-sheets. I
could row no more. My bruised and swollen hands could no longer
close on the oar handles. My wrists and arms ached intolerably,
and though I had eaten heartily of a twelve-o'clock lunch, I had
worked so hard that I was faint from hunger.
I pulled in the oars and bent forward to the line which held the
tow. But Maud's hand leaped out restrainingly to mine.
"What are you going to do?" she asked in a strained, tense voice.
"Cast it off," I answered, slipping a turn of the rope.
But her fingers closed on mine.
"Please don't," she begged.
"It is useless," I answered. "Here is night and the wind blowing
us off the land."
"But think, Humphrey. If we cannot sail away on the Ghost, we may
remain for years on the island--for life even. If it has never
been discovered all these years, it may never be discovered."
"You forget the boat we found on the beach," I reminded her.
"It was a seal-hunting boat," she replied, "and you know perfectly
well that if the men had escaped they would have been back to make
their fortunes from the rookery. You know they never escaped."
I remained silent, undecided.
"Besides," she added haltingly, "it's your idea, and I want to see
Now I could harden my heart. As soon as she put it on a flattering
personal basis, generosity compelled me to deny her.
"Better years on the island than to die to-night, or to-morrow, or
the next day, in the open boat. We are not prepared to brave the
sea. We have no food, no water, no blankets, nothing. Why, you'd
not survive the night without blankets: I know how strong you are.
You are shivering now."
"It is only nervousness," she answered. "I am afraid you will cast
off the masts in spite of me."
"Oh, please, please, Humphrey, don't!" she burst out, a moment
And so it ended, with the phrase she knew had all power over me.
We shivered miserably throughout the night. Now and again I
fitfully slept, but the pain of the cold always aroused me. How
Maud could stand it was beyond me. I was too tired to thrash my
arms about and warm myself, but I found strength time and again to
chafe her hands and feet to restore the circulation. And still she
pleaded with me not to cast off the masts. About three in the
morning she was caught by a cold cramp, and after I had rubbed her
out of that she became quite numb. I was frightened. I got out
the oars and made her row, though she was so weak I thought she
would faint at every stroke.
Morning broke, and we looked long in the growing light for our
island. At last it showed, small and black, on the horizon, fully
fifteen miles away. I scanned the sea with my glasses. Far away
in the south-west I could see a dark line on the water, which grew
even as I looked at it.
"Fair wind!" I cried in a husky voice I did not recognize as my
Maud tried to reply, but could not speak. Her lips were blue with
cold, and she was hollow-eyed--but oh, how bravely her brown eyes
looked at me! How piteously brave!
Again I fell to chafing her hands and to moving her arms up and
down and about until she could thrash them herself. Then I
compelled her to stand up, and though she would have fallen had I
not supported her, I forced her to walk back and forth the several
steps between the thwart and the stern-sheets, and finally to
spring up and down.
"Oh, you brave, brave woman," I said, when I saw the life coming
back into her face. "Did you know that you were brave?"
"I never used to be," she answered. "I was never brave till I knew
you. It is you who have made me brave."
"Nor I, until I knew you," I answered.
She gave me a quick look, and again I caught that dancing,
tremulous light and something more in her eyes. But it was only
for the moment. Then she smiled.
"It must have been the conditions," she said; but I knew she was
wrong, and I wondered if she likewise knew. Then the wind came,
fair and fresh, and the boat was soon labouring through a heavy sea
toward the island. At half-past three in the afternoon we passed
the south-western promontory. Not only were we hungry, but we were
now suffering from thirst. Our lips were dry and cracked, nor
could we longer moisten them with our tongues. Then the wind
slowly died down. By night it was dead calm and I was toiling once
more at the oars--but weakly, most weakly. At two in the morning
the boat's bow touched the beach of our own inner cove and I
staggered out to make the painter fast. Maud could not stand, nor
had I strength to carry her. I fell in the sand with her, and,
when I had recovered, contented myself with putting my hands under
her shoulders and dragging her up the beach to the hut.
The next day we did no work. In fact, we slept till three in the
afternoon, or at least I did, for I awoke to find Maud cooking
dinner. Her power of recuperation was wonderful. There was
something tenacious about that lily-frail body of hers, a clutch on
existence which one could not reconcile with its patent weakness.
"You know I was travelling to Japan for my health," she said, as we
lingered at the fire after dinner and delighted in the movelessness
of loafing. "I was not very strong. I never was. The doctors
recommended a sea voyage, and I chose the longest."
"You little knew what you were choosing," I laughed.
"But I shall be a different women for the experience, as well as a
stronger woman," she answered; "and, I hope a better woman. At
least I shall understand a great deal more life."
Then, as the short day waned, we fell to discussing Wolf Larsen's
blindness. It was inexplicable. And that it was grave, I
instanced his statement that he intended to stay and die on
Endeavour Island. When he, strong man that he was, loving life as
he did, accepted his death, it was plain that he was troubled by
something more than mere blindness. There had been his terrific
headaches, and we were agreed that it was some sort of brain break-
down, and that in his attacks he endured pain beyond our
I noticed as we talked over his condition, that Maud's sympathy
went out to him more and more; yet I could not but love her for it,
so sweetly womanly was it. Besides, there was no false sentiment
about her feeling. She was agreed that the most rigorous treatment
was necessary if we were to escape, though she recoiled at the
suggestion that I might some time be compelled to take his life to
save my own--"our own," she put it.
In the morning we had breakfast and were at work by daylight. I
found a light kedge anchor in the fore-hold, where such things were
kept; and with a deal of exertion got it on deck and into the boat.
With a long running-line coiled down in the stem, I rowed well out
into our little cove and dropped the anchor into the water. There
was no wind, the tide was high, and the schooner floated. Casting
off the shore-lines, I kedged her out by main strength (the
windlass being broken), till she rode nearly up and down to the
small anchor--too small to hold her in any breeze. So I lowered
the big starboard anchor, giving plenty of slack; and by afternoon
I was at work on the windlass.
Three days I worked on that windlass. Least of all things was I a
mechanic, and in that time I accomplished what an ordinary
machinist would have done in as many hours. I had to learn my
tools to begin with, and every simple mechanical principle which
such a man would have at his finger ends I had likewise to learn.
And at the end of three days I had a windlass which worked
clumsily. It never gave the satisfaction the old windlass had
given, but it worked and made my work possible.
In half a day I got the two topmasts aboard and the shears rigged
and guyed as before. And that night I slept on board and on deck
beside my work. Maud, who refused to stay alone ashore, slept in
the forecastle. Wolf Larsen had sat about, listening to my
repairing the windlass and talking with Maud and me upon
indifferent subjects. No reference was made on either side to the
destruction of the shears; nor did he say anything further about my
leaving his ship alone. But still I had feared him, blind and
helpless and listening, always listening, and I never let his
strong arms get within reach of me while I worked.
On this night, sleeping under my beloved shears, I was aroused by
his footsteps on the deck. It was a starlight night, and I could
see the bulk of him dimly as he moved about. I rolled out of my
blankets and crept noiselessly after him in my stocking feet. He
had armed himself with a draw-knife from the tool-locker, and with
this he prepared to cut across the throat-halyards I had again
rigged to the shears. He felt the halyards with his hands and
discovered that I had not made them fast. This would not do for a
draw-knife, so he laid hold of the running part, hove taut, and
made fast. Then he prepared to saw across with the draw-knife.
"I wouldn't, if I were you," I said quietly.
He heard the click of my pistol and laughed.
"Hello, Hump," he said. "I knew you were here all the time. You
can't fool my ears."
"That's a lie, Wolf Larsen," I said, just as quietly as before.
"However, I am aching for a chance to kill you, so go ahead and
"You have the chance always," he sneered.
"Go ahead and cut," I threatened ominously.
"I'd rather disappoint you," he laughed, and turned on his heel and
"Something must be done, Humphrey," Maud said, next morning, when I
had told her of the night's occurrence. "If he has liberty, he may
do anything. He may sink the vessel, or set fire to it. There is
no telling what he may do. We must make him a prisoner."
"But how?" I asked, with a helpless shrug. "I dare not come within
reach of his arms, and he knows that so long as his resistance is
passive I cannot shoot him."
"There must be some way," she contended. "Let me think."
"There is one way," I said grimly.
I picked up a seal-club.
"It won't kill him," I said. "And before he could recover I'd have
him bound hard and fast."
She shook her head with a shudder. "No, not that. There must be
some less brutal way. Let us wait."
But we did not have to wait long, and the problem solved itself.
In the morning, after several trials, I found the point of balance
in the foremast and attached my hoisting tackle a few feet above
it. Maud held the turn on the windlass and coiled down while I
heaved. Had the windlass been in order it would not have been so
difficult; as it was, I was compelled to apply all my weight and
strength to every inch of the heaving. I had to rest frequently.
In truth, my spells of resting were longer than those of working.
Maud even contrived, at times when all my efforts could not budge
the windlass, to hold the turn with one hand and with the other to
throw the weight of her slim body to my assistance.
At the end of an hour the single and double blocks came together at
the top of the shears. I could hoist no more. And yet the mast
was not swung entirely inboard. The butt rested against the
outside of the port rail, while the top of the mast overhung the
water far beyond the starboard rail. My shears were too short.
All my work had been for nothing. But I no longer despaired in the
old way. I was acquiring more confidence in myself and more
confidence in the possibilities of windlasses, shears, and hoisting
tackles. There was a way in which it could be done, and it
remained for me to find that way.
While I was considering the problem, Wolf Larsen came on deck. We
noticed something strange about him at once. The indecisiveness,
or feebleness, of his movements was more pronounced. His walk was
actually tottery as he came down the port side of the cabin. At
the break of the poop he reeled, raised one hand to his eyes with
the familiar brushing gesture, and fell down the steps--still on
his feet--to the main deck, across which he staggered, falling and
flinging out his arms for support. He regained his balance by the
steerage companion-way and stood there dizzily for a space, when he
suddenly crumpled up and collapsed, his legs bending under him as
he sank to the deck.
"One of his attacks," I whispered to Maud.
She nodded her head; and I could see sympathy warm in eyes.
We went up to him, but he seemed unconscious, breathing
spasmodically. She took charge of him, lifting his head to keep
the blood out of it and despatching me to the cabin for a pillow.
I also brought blankets, and we made him comfortable. I took his
pulse. It beat steadily and strong, and was quite normal. This
puzzled me. I became suspicious.
"What if he should be feigning this?" I asked, still holding his
Maud shook her head, and there was reproof in her eyes. But just
then the wrist I held leaped from my hand, and the hand clasped
like a steel trap about my wrist. I cried aloud in awful fear, a
wild inarticulate cry; and I caught one glimpse of his face,
malignant and triumphant, as his other hand compassed my body and I
was drawn down to him in a terrible grip.
My wrist was released, but his other arm, passed around my back,
held both my arms so that I could not move. His free hand went to
my throat, and in that moment I knew the bitterest foretaste of
death earned by one's own idiocy. Why had I trusted myself within
reach of those terrible arms? I could feel other hands at my
throat. They were Maud's hands, striving vainly to tear loose the
hand that was throttling me. She gave it up, and I heard her
scream in a way that cut me to the soul, for it was a woman's
scream of fear and heart-breaking despair. I had heard it before,
during the sinking of the Martinez.
My face was against his chest and I could not see, but I heard Maud
turn and run swiftly away along the deck. Everything was happening
quickly. I had not yet had a glimmering of unconsciousness, and it
seemed that an interminable period of time was lapsing before I
heard her feet flying back. And just then I felt the whole man
sink under me. The breath was leaving his lungs and his chest was
collapsing under my weight. Whether it was merely the expelled
breath, or his consciousness of his growing impotence, I know not,
but his throat vibrated with a deep groan. The hand at my throat
relaxed. I breathed. It fluttered and tightened again. But even
his tremendous will could not overcome the dissolution that
assailed it. That will of his was breaking down. He was fainting.
Maud's footsteps were very near as his hand fluttered for the last
time and my throat was released. I rolled off and over to the deck
on my back, gasping and blinking in the sunshine. Maud was pale
but composed,--my eyes had gone instantly to her face,--and she was
looking at me with mingled alarm and relief. A heavy seal-club in
her hand caught my eyes, and at that moment she followed my gaze
down to it. The club dropped from her hand as though it had
suddenly stung her, and at the same moment my heart surged with a
great joy. Truly she was my woman, my mate-woman, fighting with me
and for me as the mate of a caveman would have fought, all the
primitive in her aroused, forgetful of her culture, hard under the
softening civilization of the only life she had ever known.
"Dear woman!" I cried, scrambling to my feet.
The next moment she was in my arms, weeping convulsively on my
shoulder while I clasped her close. I looked down at the brown
glory of her hair, glinting gems in the sunshine far more precious
to me than those in the treasure-chests of kings. And I bent my
head and kissed her hair softly, so softly that she did not know.
Then sober thought came to me. After all, she was only a woman,
crying her relief, now that the danger was past, in the arms of her
protector or of the one who had been endangered. Had I been father
or brother, the situation would have been in nowise different.
Besides, time and place were not meet, and I wished to earn a
better right to declare my love. So once again I softly kissed her
hair as I felt her receding from my clasp.
"It was a real attack this time," I said: "another shock like the
one that made him blind. He feigned at first, and in doing so
brought it on."
Maud was already rearranging his pillow.
"No," I said, "not yet. Now that I have him helpless, helpless he
shall remain. From this day we live in the cabin. Wolf Larsen
shall live in the steerage."
I caught him under the shoulders and dragged him to the companion-
way. At my direction Maud fetched a rope. Placing this under his
shoulders, I balanced him across the threshold and lowered him down
the steps to the floor. I could not lift him directly into a bunk,
but with Maud's help I lifted first his shoulders and head, then
his body, balanced him across the edge, and rolled him into a lower
But this was not to be all. I recollected the handcuffs in his
state-room, which he preferred to use on sailors instead of the
ancient and clumsy ship irons. So, when we left him, he lay
handcuffed hand and foot. For the first time in many days I
breathed freely. I felt strangely light as I came on deck, as
though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt, also,
that Maud and I had drawn more closely together. And I wondered if
she, too, felt it, as we walked along the deck side by side to
where the stalled foremast hung in the shears.
At once we moved aboard the Ghost, occupying our old state-rooms
and cooking in the galley. The imprisonment of Wolf Larsen had
happened most opportunely, for what must have been the Indian
summer of this high latitude was gone and drizzling stormy weather
had set in. We were very comfortable, and the inadequate shears,
with the foremast suspended from them, gave a business-like air to
the schooner and a promise of departure.
And now that we had Wolf Larsen in irons, how little did we need
it! Like his first attack, his second had been accompanied by
serious disablement. Maud made the discovery in the afternoon
while trying to give him nourishment. He had shown signs of
consciousness, and she had spoken to him, eliciting no response.
He was lying on his left side at the time, and in evident pain.
With a restless movement he rolled his head around, clearing his
left ear from the pillow against which it had been pressed. At
once he heard and answered her, and at once she came to me.
Pressing the pillow against his left ear, I asked him if he heard
me, but he gave no sign. Removing the pillow and, repeating the
question he answered promptly that he did.
"Do you know you are deaf in the right ear?" I asked.
"Yes," he answered in a low, strong voice, "and worse than that.
My whole right side is affected. It seems asleep. I cannot move
arm or leg."
"Feigning again?" I demanded angrily.
He shook his head, his stern mouth shaping the strangest, twisted
smile. It was indeed a twisted smile, for it was on the left side
only, the facial muscles of the right side moving not at all.
"That was the last play of the Wolf," he said. "I am paralysed. I
shall never walk again. Oh, only on the other side," he added, as
though divining the suspicious glance I flung at his left leg, the
knee of which had just then drawn up, and elevated the blankets.
"It's unfortunate," he continued. "I'd liked to have done for you
first, Hump. And I thought I had that much left in me."
"But why?" I asked; partly in horror, partly out of curiosity.
Again his stern mouth framed the twisted smile, as he said:
"Oh, just to be alive, to be living and doing, to be the biggest
bit of the ferment to the end, to eat you. But to die this way."
He shrugged his shoulders, or attempted to shrug them, rather, for
the left shoulder alone moved. Like the smile, the shrug was
"But how can you account for it?" I asked. "Where is the seat of
"The brain," he said at once. "It was those cursed headaches
brought it on."
"Symptoms," I said.
He nodded his head. "There is no accounting for it. I was never
sick in my life. Something's gone wrong with my brain. A cancer,
a tumour, or something of that nature,--a thing that devours and
destroys. It's attacking my nerve-centres, eating them up, bit by
bit, cell by cell--from the pain."
"The motor-centres, too," I suggested.
"So it would seem; and the curse of it is that I must lie here,
conscious, mentally unimpaired, knowing that the lines are going
down, breaking bit by bit communication with the world. I cannot
see, hearing and feeling are leaving me, at this rate I shall soon
cease to speak; yet all the time I shall be here, alive, active,
"When you say YOU are here, I'd suggest the likelihood of the
soul," I said.
"Bosh!" was his retort. "It simply means that in the attack on my
brain the higher psychical centres are untouched. I can remember,
I can think and reason. When that goes, I go. I am not. The
He broke out in mocking laughter, then turned his left ear to the
pillow as a sign that he wished no further conversation.
Maud and I went about our work oppressed by the fearful fate which
had overtaken him,--how fearful we were yet fully to realize.
There was the awfulness of retribution about it. Our thoughts were
deep and solemn, and we spoke to each other scarcely above
"You might remove the handcuffs," he said that night, as we stood
in consultation over him. "It's dead safe. I'm a paralytic now.
The next thing to watch out for is bed sores."
He smiled his twisted smile, and Maud, her eyes wide with horror,
was compelled to turn away her head.
"Do you know that your smile is crooked?" I asked him; for I knew
that she must attend him, and I wished to save her as much as
"Then I shall smile no more," he said calmly. "I thought something
was wrong. My right cheek has been numb all day. Yes, and I've
had warnings of this for the last three days; by spells, my right
side seemed going to sleep, sometimes arm or hand, sometimes leg or
"So my smile is crooked?" he queried a short while after. "Well,
consider henceforth that I smile internally, with my soul, if you
please, my soul. Consider that I am smiling now."
And for the space of several minutes he lay there, quiet, indulging
his grotesque fancy.
The man of him was not changed. It was the old, indomitable,
terrible Wolf Larsen, imprisoned somewhere within that flesh which
had once been so invincible and splendid. Now it bound him with
insentient fetters, walling his soul in darkness and silence,
blocking it from the world which to him had been a riot of action.
No more would he conjugate the verb "to do in every mood and
tense." "To be" was all that remained to him--to be, as he had
defined death, without movement; to will, but not to execute; to
think and reason and in the spirit of him to be as alive as ever,
but in the flesh to be dead, quite dead.
And yet, though I even removed the handcuffs, we could not adjust
ourselves to his condition. Our minds revolted. To us he was full
of potentiality. We knew not what to expect of him next, what
fearful thing, rising above the flesh, he might break out and do.
Our experience warranted this state of mind, and we went about our
work with anxiety always upon us.
I had solved the problem which had arisen through the shortness of
the shears. By means of the watch-tackle (I had made a new one), I
heaved the butt of the foremast across the rail and then lowered it
to the deck. Next, by means of the shears, I hoisted the main boom
on board. Its forty feet of length would supply the height
necessary properly to swing the mast. By means of a secondary
tackle I had attached to the shears, I swung the boom to a nearly
perpendicular position, then lowered the butt to the deck, where,
to prevent slipping, I spiked great cleats around it. The single
block of my original shears-tackle I had attached to the end of the
boom. Thus, by carrying this tackle to the windlass, I could raise
and lower the end of the boom at will, the butt always remaining
stationary, and, by means of guys, I could swing the boom from side
to side. To the end of the boom I had likewise rigged a hoisting
tackle; and when the whole arrangement was completed I could not
but be startled by the power and latitude it gave me.
Of course, two days' work was required for the accomplishment of
this part of my task, and it was not till the morning of the third
day that I swung the foremast from the deck and proceeded to square
its butt to fit the step. Here I was especially awkward. I sawed
and chopped and chiselled the weathered wood till it had the
appearance of having been gnawed by some gigantic mouse. But it
"It will work, I know it will work," I cried.
"Do you know Dr. Jordan's final test of truth?" Maud asked.
I shook my head and paused in the act of dislodging the shavings
which had drifted down my neck.
"Can we make it work? Can we trust our lives to it? is the test."
"He is a favourite of yours," I said.
"When I dismantled my old Pantheon and cast out Napoleon and Caesar
and their fellows, I straightway erected a new Pantheon," she
answered gravely, "and the first I installed as Dr. Jordan."
"A modern hero."
"And a greater because modern," she added. "How can the Old World
heroes compare with ours?"
I shook my head. We were too much alike in many things for
argument. Our points of view and outlook on life at least were
"For a pair of critics we agree famously," I laughed.
"And as shipwright and able assistant," she laughed back.
But there was little time for laughter in those days, what of our
heavy work and of the awfulness of Wolf Larsen's living death.
He had received another stroke. He had lost his voice, or he was
losing it. He had only intermittent use of it. As he phrased it,
the wires were like the stock market, now up, now down.
Occasionally the wires were up and he spoke as well as ever, though
slowly and heavily. Then speech would suddenly desert him, in the
middle of a sentence perhaps, and for hours, sometimes, we would
wait for the connection to be re-established. He complained of
great pain in his head, and it was during this period that he
arranged a system of communication against the time when speech
should leave him altogether--one pressure of the hand for "yes,"
two for "no." It was well that it was arranged, for by evening his
voice had gone from him. By hand pressures, after that, he
answered our questions, and when he wished to speak he scrawled his
thoughts with his left hand, quite legibly, on a sheet of paper.
The fierce winter had now descended upon us. Gale followed gale,
with snow and sleet and rain. The seals had started on their great
southern migration, and the rookery was practically deserted. I
worked feverishly. In spite of the bad weather, and of the wind
which especially hindered me, I was on deck from daylight till dark
and making substantial progress.
I profited by my lesson learned through raising the shears and then
climbing them to attach the guys. To the top of the foremast,
which was just lifted conveniently from the deck, I attached the
rigging, stays and throat and peak halyards. As usual, I had
underrated the amount of work involved in this portion of the task,
and two long days were necessary to complete it. And there was so
much yet to be done--the sails, for instance, which practically had
to be made over.
While I toiled at rigging the foremast, Maud sewed on canvas, ready
always to drop everything and come to my assistance when more hands
than two were required. The canvas was heavy and hard, and she
sewed with the regular sailor's palm and three-cornered sail-
needle. Her hands were soon sadly blistered, but she struggled
bravely on, and in addition doing the cooking and taking care of
the sick man.
"A fig for superstition," I said on Friday morning. "That mast
goes in to-day.'
Everything was ready for the attempt. Carrying the boom-tackle to
the windlass, I hoisted the mast nearly clear of the deck. Making
this tackle fast, I took to the windlass the shears-tackle (which
was connected with the end of the boom), and with a few turns had
the mast perpendicular and clear.
Maud clapped her hands the instant she was relieved from holding
the turn, crying:
"It works! It works! We'll trust our lives to it!"
Then she assumed a rueful expression.
"It's not over the hole," she add. "Will you have to begin all
I smiled in superior fashion, and, slacking off on one of the boom-
guys and taking in on the other, swung the mast perfectly in the
centre of the deck. Still it was not over the hole. Again the
rueful expression came on her face, and again I smiled in a
superior way. Slacking away on the boom-tackle and hoisting an
equivalent amount on the shears-tackle, I brought the butt of the
mast into position directly over the hole in the deck. Then I gave
Maud careful instructions for lowering away and went into the hold
to the step on the schooner's bottom.
I called to her, and the mast moved easily and accurately.
Straight toward the square hole of the step the square butt
descended; but as it descended it slowly twisted so that square
would not fit into square. But I had not even a moment's
indecision. Calling to Maud to cease lowering, I went on deck and
made the watch-tackle fast to the mast with a rolling hitch. I
left Maud to pull on it while I went below. By the light of the
lantern I saw the butt twist slowly around till its sides coincided
with the sides of the step. Maud made fast and returned to the
windlass. Slowly the butt descended the several intervening
inches, at the same time slightly twisting again. Again Maud
rectified the twist with the watch-tackle, and again she lowered
away from the windlass. Square fitted into square. The mast was
I raised a shout, and she ran down to see. In the yellow lantern
light we peered at what we had accomplished. We looked at each
other, and our hands felt their way and clasped. The eyes of both
of us, I think, were moist with the joy of success.
"It was done so easily after all," I remarked. "All the work was
in the preparation."
"And all the wonder in the completion," Maud added. "I can
scarcely bring myself to realize that that great mast is really up
and in; that you have lifted it from the water, swung it through
the air, and deposited it here where it belongs. It is a Titan's
"And they made themselves many inventions," I began merrily, then
paused to sniff the air.
I looked hastily at the lantern. It was not smoking. Again I
"Something is burning," Maud said, with sudden conviction.
We sprang together for the ladder, but I raced past her to the
deck. A dense volume of smoke was pouring out of the steerage
"The Wolf is not yet dead," I muttered to myself as I sprang down
through the smoke.
It was so thick in the confined space that I was compelled to feel
my way; and so potent was the spell of Wolf Larsen on my
imagination, I was quite prepared for the helpless giant to grip my
neck in a strangle hold. I hesitated, the desire to race back and
up the steps to the deck almost overpowering me. Then I
recollected Maud. The vision of her, as I had last seen her, in
the lantern light of the schooner's hold, her brown eyes warm and
moist with joy, flashed before me, and I knew that I could not go
I was choking and suffocating by the time I reached Wolf Larsen's
bunk. I reached my hand and felt for his. He was lying
motionless, but moved slightly at the touch of my hand. I felt
over and under his blankets. There was no warmth, no sign of fire.
Yet that smoke which blinded me and made me cough and gasp must
have a source. I lost my head temporarily and dashed frantically
about the steerage. A collision with the table partially knocked
the wind from my body and brought me to myself. I reasoned that a
helpless man could start a fire only near to where he lay.
I returned to Wolf Larsen's bunk. There I encountered Maud. How
long she had been there in that suffocating atmosphere I could not
"Go up on deck!" I commanded peremptorily.
"But, Humphrey--" she began to protest in a queer, husky voice.
"Please! please!" I shouted at her harshly.
She drew away obediently, and then I thought, What if she cannot
find the steps? I started after her, to stop at the foot of the
companion-way. Perhaps she had gone up. As I stood there,
hesitant, I heard her cry softly:
"Oh, Humphrey, I am lost."
I found her fumbling at the wall of the after bulkhead, and, half
leading her, half carrying her, I took her up the companion-way.
The pure air was like nectar. Maud was only faint and dizzy, and I
left her lying on the deck when I took my second plunge below.
The source of the smoke must be very close to Wolf Larsen--my mind
was made up to this, and I went straight to his bunk. As I felt
about among his blankets, something hot fell on the back of my
hand. It burned me, and I jerked my hand away. Then I understood.
Through the cracks in the bottom of the upper bunk he had set fire
to the mattress. He still retained sufficient use of his left arm
to do this. The damp straw of the mattress, fired from beneath and
denied air, had been smouldering all the while.
As I dragged the mattress out of the bunk it seemed to disintegrate
in mid-air, at the same time bursting into flames. I beat out the
burning remnants of straw in the bunk, then made a dash for the
deck for fresh air.
Several buckets of water sufficed to put out the burning mattress
in the middle of the steerage floor; and ten minutes later, when
the smoke had fairly cleared, I allowed Maud to come below. Wolf
Larsen was unconscious, but it was a matter of minutes for the
fresh air to restore him. We were working over him, however, when
he signed for paper and pencil.
"Pray do not interrupt me," he wrote. "I am smiling."
"I am still a bit of the ferment, you see," he wrote a little
"I am glad you are as small a bit as you are," I said.
"Thank you," he wrote. "But just think of how much smaller I shall
be before I die."
"And yet I am all here, Hump," he wrote with a final flourish. "I
can think more clearly than ever in my life before. Nothing to
disturb me. Concentration is perfect. I am all here and more than
It was like a message from the night of the grave; for this man's
body had become his mausoleum. And there, in so strange sepulchre,
his spirit fluttered and lived. It would flutter and live till the
last line of communication was broken, and after that who was to
say how much longer it might continue to flutter and live?
"I think my left side is going," Wolf Larsen wrote, the morning
after his attempt to fire the ship. "The numbness is growing. I
can hardly move my hand. You will have to speak louder. The last
lines are going down."
"Are you in pain?" I asked.
I was compelled to repeat my question loudly before he answered:
"Not all the time."
The left hand stumbled slowly and painfully across the paper, and
it was with extreme difficulty that we deciphered the scrawl. It
was like a "spirit message," such as are delivered at seances of
spiritualists for a dollar admission.
"But I am still here, all here," the hand scrawled more slowly and
painfully than ever.
The pencil dropped, and we had to replace it in the hand.
"When there is no pain I have perfect peace and quiet. I have
never thought so clearly. I can ponder life and death like a
"And immortality?" Maud queried loudly in the ear.
Three times the hand essayed to write but fumbled hopelessly. The
pencil fell. In vain we tried to replace it. The fingers could
not close on it. Then Maud pressed and held the fingers about the
pencil with her own hand and the hand wrote, in large letters, and
so slowly that the minutes ticked off to each letter:
It was Wolf Larsen's last word, "bosh," sceptical and invincible to
the end. The arm and hand relaxed. The trunk of the body moved
slightly. Then there was no movement. Maud released the hand.
The fingers spread slightly, falling apart of their own weight, and
the pencil rolled away.
"Do you still hear?" I shouted, holding the fingers and waiting for
the single pressure which would signify "Yes." There was no
response. The hand was dead.
"I noticed the lips slightly move," Maud said.
I repeated the question. The lips moved. She placed the tips of
her fingers on them. Again I repeated the question. "Yes," Maud
announced. We looked at each other expectantly.
"What good is it?" I asked. "What can we say now?"
"Oh, ask him--"
"Ask him something that requires no for an answer," I suggested.
"Then we will know for certainty."
"Are you hungry?" she cried.
The lips moved under her fingers, and she answered, "Yes."
"Will you have some beef?" was her next query.
"No," she announced.
"Yes, he will have some beef-tea," she said, quietly, looking up at
me. "Until his hearing goes we shall be able to communicate with
him. And after that--"
She looked at me queerly. I saw her lips trembling and the tears
swimming up in her eyes. She swayed toward me and I caught her in
"Oh, Humphrey," she sobbed, "when will it all end? I am so tired,
She buried her head on my shoulder, her frail form shaken with a
storm of weeping. She was like a feather in my arms, so slender,
so ethereal. "She has broken down at last," I thought. "What can
I do without her help?"
But I soothed and comforted her, till she pulled herself bravely
together and recuperated mentally as quickly as she was wont to do
"I ought to be ashamed of myself," she said. Then added, with the
whimsical smile I adored, "but I am only one, small woman."
That phrase, the "one small woman," startled me like an electric
shock. It was my own phrase, my pet, secret phrase, my love phrase
"Where did you get that phrase?" I demanded, with an abruptness
that in turn startled her.
"What phrase?" she asked.
"One small woman."
"Is it yours?" she asked.
"Yes," I answered. "Mine. I made it."
"Then you must have talked in your sleep," she smiled.
The dancing, tremulous light was in her eyes. Mine, I knew, were
speaking beyond the will of my speech. I leaned toward her.
Without volition I leaned toward her, as a tree is swayed by the
wind. Ah, we were very close together in that moment. But she
shook her head, as one might shake off sleep or a dream, saying:
"I have known it all my life. It was my father's name for my
"It is my phrase too," I said stubbornly.
"For your mother?"
"No," I answered, and she questioned no further, though I could
have sworn her eyes retained for some time a mocking, teasing
With the foremast in, the work now went on apace. Almost before I
knew it, and without one serious hitch, I had the mainmast stepped.
A derrick-boom, rigged to the foremast, had accomplished this; and
several days more found all stays and shrouds in place, and
everything set up taut. Topsails would be a nuisance and a danger
for a crew of two, so I heaved the topmasts on deck and lashed them
Several more days were consumed in finishing the sails and putting
them on. There were only three--the jib, foresail, and mainsail;
and, patched, shortened, and distorted, they were a ridiculously
ill-fitting suit for so trim a craft as the Ghost.
"But they'll work!" Maud cried jubilantly. "We'll make them work,
and trust our lives to them!"
Certainly, among my many new trades, I shone least as a sail-maker.
I could sail them better than make them, and I had no doubt of my
power to bring the schooner to some northern port of Japan. In
fact, I had crammed navigation from text-books aboard; and besides,
there was Wolf Larsen's star-scale, so simple a device that a child
could work it.
As for its inventor, beyond an increasing deafness and the movement
of the lips growing fainter and fainter, there had been little
change in his condition for a week. But on the day we finished
bending the schooner's sails, he heard his last, and the last
movement of his lips died away--but not before I had asked him,
"Are you all there?" and the lips had answered, "Yes."
The last line was down. Somewhere within that tomb of the flesh
still dwelt the soul of the man. Walled by the living clay, that
fierce intelligence we had known burned on; but it burned on in
silence and darkness. And it was disembodied. To that
intelligence there could be no objective knowledge of a body. It
knew no body. The very world was not. It knew only itself and the
vastness and profundity of the quiet and the dark.
The day came for our departure. There was no longer anything to
detain us on Endeavour Island. The Ghost's stumpy masts were in
place, her crazy sails bent. All my handiwork was strong, none of
it beautiful; but I knew that it would work, and I felt myself a
man of power as I looked at it.
"I did it! I did it! With my own hands I did it!" I wanted to cry
But Maud and I had a way of voicing each other's thoughts, and she
said, as we prepared to hoist the mainsail:
"To think, Humphrey, you did it all with your own hands?"
"But there were two other hands," I answered. "Two small hands,
and don't say that was a phrase, also, of your father."
She laughed and shook her head, and held her hands up for
"I can never get them clean again," she wailed, "nor soften the
"Then dirt and weather-beat shall be your guerdon of honour," I
said, holding them in mine; and, spite of my resolutions, I would
have kissed the two dear hands had she not swiftly withdrawn them.
Our comradeship was becoming tremulous, I had mastered my love long
and well, but now it was mastering me. Wilfully had it disobeyed
and won my eyes to speech, and now it was winning my tongue--ay,
and my lips, for they were mad this moment to kiss the two small
hands which had toiled so faithfully and hard. And I, too, was
mad. There was a cry in my being like bugles calling me to her.
And there was a wind blowing upon me which I could not resist,
swaying the very body of me till I leaned toward her, all
unconscious that I leaned. And she knew it. She could not but
know it as she swiftly drew away her hands, and yet, could not
forbear one quick searching look before she turned away her eyes.
By means of deck-tackles I had arranged to carry the halyards
forward to the windlass; and now I hoisted the mainsail, peak and
throat, at the same time. It was a clumsy way, but it did not take
long, and soon the foresail as well was up and fluttering.
"We can never get that anchor up in this narrow place, once it has
left the bottom," I said. "We should be on the rocks first."
"What can you do?" she asked.
"Slip it," was my answer. "And when I do, you must do your first
work on the windlass. I shall have to run at once to the wheel,
and at the same time you must be hoisting the jib."
This manoeuvre of getting under way I had studied and worked out a
score of times; and, with the jib-halyard to the windlass, I knew
Maud was capable of hoisting that most necessary sail. A brisk
wind was blowing into the cove, and though the water was calm,
rapid work was required to get us safely out.
When I knocked the shackle-bolt loose, the chain roared out through
the hawse-hole and into the sea. I raced aft, putting the wheel
up. The Ghost seemed to start into life as she heeled to the first
fill of her sails. The jib was rising. As it filled, the Ghost's
bow swung off and I had to put the wheel down a few spokes and