For three days I did my own work and Thomas Mugridges too; and I flatter myself that I did his work well. I know that it won Wolf Larsens approval, while the sailors beamed with satisfaction during the brief time my régime lasted.
The first clean bite since I come aboard, Harrison said to me at the galley door, as he returned the dinner pots and pans from the forecastle. Somehow Tommys grub always tastes of grease, stale grease, and I reckon he aint changed his shirt since he left Frisco.
I know he hasnt, I answered.
And Ill bet he sleeps in it, Harrison added.
And you wont lose, I agreed. The same shirt, and he hasnt had it off once in all this time.
But three days was all Wolf Larsen allowed him in which to recover from the effects of the beating. On the fourth day, lame and sore, scarcely able to see, so closed were his eyes, he was haled from his bunk by the nape of the neck and set to his duty. He sniffled and wept, but Wolf Larsen was pitiless.
And see that you serve no more slops, was his parting injunction. No more grease and dirt, mind, and a clean shirt occasionally, or youll get a tow over the side. Understand?
Thomas Mugridge crawled weakly across the galley floor, and a short lurch of the Ghost sent him staggering. In attempting to recover himself, he reached for the iron railing which surrounded the stove and kept the pots from sliding off; but he missed the railing, and his hand, with his weight behind it, landed squarely on the hot surface. There was a sizzle and odour of burning flesh, and a sharp cry of pain.
Oh, Gawd, Gawd, wot ave I done? he wailed; sitting down in the coal-box and nursing his new hurt by rocking back and forth. Wy as all this come on me? It mykes me fair sick, it does, an I try so ard to go through life armless an urtin nobody.
The tears were running down his puffed and discoloured cheeks, and his face was drawn with pain. A savage expression flitted across it.
Oh, ow I ate im! Ow I ate im! he gritted out.
Whom? I asked; but the poor wretch was weeping again over his misfortunes. Less difficult it was to guess whom he hated than whom he did not hate. For I had come to see a malignant devil in him which impelled him to hate all the world. I sometimes thought that he hated even himself, so grotesquely had life dealt with him, and so monstrously. At such moments a great sympathy welled up within me, and I felt shame that I had ever joyed in his discomfiture or pain. Life had been unfair to him. It had played him a scurvy trick when it fashioned him into the thing he was, and it had played him scurvy tricks ever since. What chance had he to be anything else than he was? And as though answering my unspoken thought, he wailed:
I never ad no chance, not arf a chance! Oo was there to send me to school, or put tommy in my ungry belly, or wipe my bloody nose for me, wen I was a kiddy? Oo ever did anything for me, heh? Oo, I sy?
Never mind, Tommy, I said, placing a soothing hand on his shoulder. Cheer up. Itll all come right in the end. Youve long years before you, and you can make anything you please of yourself.
Its a lie! a bloody lie! he shouted in my face, flinging off the hand. Its a lie, and you know it. Im already myde, an myde out of leavins an scraps. Its all right for you, Ump. You was born a gentleman. You never knew wot it was to go ungry, to cry yerself asleep with yer little belly gnawin an gnawin, like a rat inside yer. It carnt come right. If I was President of the United Stytes to-morrer, ow would it fill my belly for one time wen I was a kiddy and it went empty?
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