And theyve about all the escaping they want, I said. Why not give them a change of treatment? Take them aboard, and deal gently with them. Whatever they have done they have been hounded into doing.
By you, I answered steadily. And I give you warning, Wolf Larsen, that I may forget love of my own life in the desire to kill you if you go too far in maltreating those poor wretches.
Bravo! he cried. You do me proud, Hump! Youve found your legs with a vengeance. Youre quite an individual. You were unfortunate in having your life cast in easy places, but youre developing, and I like you the better for it.
His voice and expression changed. His face was serious. Do you believe in promises? he asked. Are they sacred things?
Of course, I answered.
Then heres a compact, he went on, consummate actor. If I promise not to lay my hands upon Leach will you promise, in turn, not to attempt to kill me?
Oh, not that Im afraid of you, not that Im afraid of you, he hastened to add.
I could hardly believe my ears. What was coming over the man?
Is it a go? he asked impatiently.
A go, I answered.
His hand went out to mine, and as I shook it heartily I could have sworn I saw the mocking devil shine up for a moment in his eyes.
We strolled across the poop to the lee side. The boat was close at hand now, and in desperate plight. Johnson was steering, Leach bailing. We overhauled them about two feet to their one. Wolf Larsen motioned Louis to keep off slightly, and we dashed abreast of the boat, not a score of feet to windward. The Ghost blanketed it. The spritsail flapped emptily and the boat righted to an even keel, causing the two men swiftly to change position. The boat lost headway, and, as we lifted on a huge surge, toppled and fell into the trough.
It was at this moment that Leach and Johnson looked up into the faces of their shipmates, who lined the rail amidships. There was no greeting. They were as dead men in their comrades eyes, and between them was the gulf that parts the living and the dead.
The next instant they were opposite the poop, where stood Wolf Larsen and I. We were falling in the trough, they were rising on the surge. Johnson looked at me, and I could see that his face was worn and haggard. I waved my hand to him, and he answered the greeting, but with a wave that was hopeless and despairing. It was as if he were saying farewell. I did not see into the eyes of Leach, for he was looking at Wolf Larsen, the old and implacable snarl of hatred strong as ever on his face.
Then they were gone astern. The spritsail filled with the wind, suddenly, careening the frail open craft till it seemed it would surely capsize. A whitecap foamed above it and broke across in a snow-white smother. Then the boat emerged, half swamped, Leach flinging the water out and Johnson clinging to the steering-oar, his face white and anxious.
Wolf Larsen barked a short laugh in my ear and strode away to the weather side of the poop. I expected him to give orders for the Ghost to heave to, but she kept on her course and he made no sign. Louis stood imperturbably at the wheel, but I noticed the grouped sailors forward turning troubled faces in our
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