Wolf Larsen was unaffected by the drink, yet he drank glass for glass, and if anything his glasses were fuller. There was no change in him. He did not appear even amused at the others antics.
In the end, with loud protestations that he could lose like a gentleman, the cooks last money was staked on the game - and lost. Whereupon he leaned his head on his hands and wept. Wolf Larsen looked curiously at him, as though about to probe and vivisect him, then changed his mind, as from the foregone conclusion that there was nothing there to probe.
Hump, he said to me, elaborately polite, kindly take Mr. Mugridges arm and help him up on deck. He is not feeling very well.
And tell Johnson to douse him with a few buckets of salt water, he added, in a lower tone for my ear alone.
I left Mr. Mugridge on deck, in the hands of a couple of grinning sailors who had been told off for the purpose. Mr. Mugridge was sleepily spluttering that he was a gentlemans son. But as I descended the companion stairs to clear the table I heard him shriek as the first bucket of water struck him.
Wolf Larsen was counting his winnings.
One hundred and eighty-five dollars even, he said aloud. Just as I thought. The beggar came aboard without a cent.
And what you have won is mine, sir, I said boldly.
He favoured me with a quizzical smile. Hump, I have studied some grammar in my time, and I think your tenses are tangled. Was mine, you should have said, not is mine.
It is a question, not of grammar, but of ethics, I answered.
It was possibly a minute before he spoke.
Dye know, Hump, he said, with a slow seriousness which had in it an indefinable strain of sadness, that this is the first time I have heard the word ethics in the mouth of a man. You and I are the only men on this ship who know its meaning.
At one time in my life, he continued, after another pause, I dreamed that I might some day talk with men who used such language, that I might lift myself out of the place in life in which I had been born, and hold conversation and mingle with men who talked about just such things as ethics. And this is the first time I have ever heard the word pronounced. Which is all by the way, for you are wrong. It is a question neither of grammar nor ethics, but of fact.
I understand, I said. The fact is that you have the money.
His face brightened. He seemed pleased at my perspicacity. But it is avoiding the real question, I continued, which is one of right.
Ah, he remarked, with a wry pucker of his mouth, I see you still believe in such things as right and wrong.
But dont you? - at all? I demanded.
Not the least bit. Might is right, and that is all there is to it. Weakness is wrong. Which is a very poor way of saying that it is good for oneself to be strong, and evil for oneself to be weak - or better yet, it is pleasurable to be strong, because of the profits; painful to be weak, because of the penalties. Just now the possession of this money is a pleasurable thing. It is good for one to possess it. Being able to
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