He hesitated, awkward and bashful, shifted his weight from one leg to the other, then blunderingly gripped my hand in a hearty shake.
Have you any dry clothes I may put on? I asked the cook.
Yes, sir, he answered, with cheerful alacrity. Ill run down an tyke a look over my kit, if youve no objections, sir, to wearin my things.
He dived out of the galley door, or glided rather, with a swiftness and smoothness of gait that struck me as being not so much cat-like as oily. In fact, this oiliness, or greasiness, as I was later to learn, was probably the most salient expression of his personality.
And where am I? I asked Johnson, whom I took, and rightly, to be one of the sailors. What vessel is this, and where is she bound?
Off the Farallones, heading about sou-west, he answered, slowly and methodically, as though groping for his best English, and rigidly observing the order of my queries. The schooner Ghost, bound seal- hunting to Japan.
And who is the captain? I must see him as soon as I am dressed.
Johnson looked puzzled and embarrassed. He hesitated while he groped in his vocabulary and framed a complete answer. The capn is Wolf Larsen, or so men call him. I never heard his other name. But you better speak soft with him. He is mad this morning. The mate -
But he did not finish. The cook had glided in.
Better sling yer ook out of ere, Yonson, he said. The old manll be wantin yer on deck, an this aynt no dy to fall foul of im.
Johnson turned obediently to the door, at the same time, over the cooks shoulder, favouring me with an amazingly solemn and portentous wink as though to emphasize his interrupted remark and the need for me to be soft-spoken with the captain.
Hanging over the cooks arm was a loose and crumpled array of evil- looking and sour-smelling garments.
They was put awy wet, sir, he vouchsafed explanation. But youll ave to make them do till I dry yours out by the fire.
Clinging to the woodwork, staggering with the roll of the ship, and aided by the cook, I managed to slip into a rough woollen undershirt. On the instant my flesh was creeping and crawling from the harsh contact. He noticed my involuntary twitching and grimacing, and smirked:
I only ope yer dont ever ave to get used to such as that in this life, cos youve got a bloomin soft skin, that you ave, more like a lydys than any I know of. I was bloomin well sure you was a gentleman as soon as I set eyes on yer.
I had taken a dislike to him at first, and as he helped to dress me this dislike increased. There was something repulsive about his touch. I shrank from his hand; my flesh revolted. And between this and the smells arising from various pots boiling and bubbling on the galley fire, I was in haste to get out into the fresh air. Further, there was the need of seeing the captain about what arrangements could be made for getting me ashore.
A cheap cotton shirt, with frayed collar and a bosom discoloured with what I took to be ancient blood- stains, was put on me amid a running and apologetic fire of comment. A pair of workmans brogans encased my feet, and for trousers I was furnished with a pair of pale blue, washed-out overalls, one leg
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