I am not afraid, the sailor retorted, a slight angry flush rising through his sunburn. If I speak not fast, it is because I have not been from the old country as long as you. You do not like me because I am too much of a man; that is why, sir.
You are too much of a man for ship discipline, if that is what you mean, and if you know what I mean, was Wolf Larsens retort.
I know English, and I know what you mean, sir, Johnson answered, his flush deepening at the slur on his knowledge of the English language.
Johnson, Wolf Larsen said, with an air of dismissing all that had gone before as introductory to the main business in hand, I understand youre not quite satisfied with those oilskins?
No, I am not. They are no good, sir.
And youve been shooting off your mouth about them.
I say what I think, sir, the sailor answered courageously, not failing at the same time in ship courtesy, which demanded that sir be appended to each speech he made.
It was at this moment that I chanced to glance at Johansen. His big fists were clenching and unclenching, and his face was positively fiendish, so malignantly did he look at Johnson. I noticed a black discoloration, still faintly visible, under Johansens eye, a mark of the thrashing he had received a few nights before from the sailor. For the first time I began to divine that something terrible was about to be enacted, - what, I could not imagine.
Do you know what happens to men who say what youve said about my slop-chest and me? Wolf Larsen was demanding.
I know, sir, was the answer.
What? Wolf Larsen demanded, sharply and imperatively.
What you and the mate there are going to do to me, sir.
Look at him, Hump, Wolf Larsen said to me, look at this bit of animated dust, this aggregation of matter that moves and breathes and defies me and thoroughly believes itself to be compounded of something good; that is impressed with certain human fictions such as righteousness and honesty, and that will live up to them in spite of all personal discomforts and menaces. What do you think of him, Hump? What do you think of him?
I think that he is a better man than you are, I answered, impelled, somehow, with a desire to draw upon myself a portion of the wrath I felt was about to break upon his head. His human fictions, as you choose to call them, make for nobility and manhood. You have no fictions, no dreams, no ideals. You are a pauper.
He nodded his head with a savage pleasantness. Quite true, Hump, quite true. I have no fictions that make for nobility and manhood. A living dog is better than a dead lion, say I with the Preacher. My only doctrine is the doctrine of expediency, and it makes for surviving. This bit of the ferment we call Johnson, when he is no longer a bit of the ferment, only dust and ashes, will have no more nobility than any dust and ashes, while I shall still be alive and roaring.
Do you know what I am going to do? he questioned.
I shook my head.
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