It was a pitiful spectacle. Though he could not drown, and was nine-lived in addition, he was suffering all the agonies of half- drowning. The Ghost was going very slowly, and when her stern lifted on a wave and she slipped forward she pulled the wretch to the surface and gave him a moment in which to breathe; but between each lift the stern fell, and while the bow lazily climbed the next wave the line slacked and he sank beneath.
I had forgotten the existence of Maud Brewster, and I remembered her with a start as she stepped lightly beside me. It was her first time on deck since she had come aboard. A dead silence greeted her appearance.
What is the cause of the merriment? she asked.
Ask Captain Larsen, I answered composedly and coldly, though inwardly my blood was boiling at the thought that she should be witness to such brutality.
She took my advice and was turning to put it into execution, when her eyes lighted on Oofty-Oofty, immediately before her, his body instinct with alertness and grace as he held the turn of the rope.
Are you fishing? she asked him.
He made no reply. His eyes, fixed intently on the sea astern, suddenly flashed.
Shark ho, sir! he cried.
Heave in! Lively! All hands tail on! Wolf Larsen shouted, springing himself to the rope in advance of the quickest.
Mugridge had heard the Kanakas warning cry and was screaming madly. I could see a black fin cutting the water and making for him with greater swiftness than he was being pulled aboard. It was an even toss whether the shark or we would get him, and it was a matter of moments. When Mugridge was directly beneath us, the stern descended the slope of a passing wave, thus giving the advantage to the shark. The fin disappeared. The belly flashed white in swift upward rush. Almost equally swift, but not quite, was Wolf Larsen. He threw his strength into one tremendous jerk. The Cockneys body left the water; so did part of the sharks. He drew up his legs, and the man-eater seemed no more than barely to touch one foot, sinking back into the water with a splash. But at the moment of contact Thomas Mugridge cried out. Then he came in like a fresh-caught fish on a line, clearing the rail generously and striking the deck in a heap, on hands and knees, and rolling over.
But a fountain of blood was gushing forth. The right foot was missing, amputated neatly at the ankle. I looked instantly to Maud Brewster. Her face was white, her eyes dilated with horror. She was gazing, not at Thomas Mugridge, but at Wolf Larsen. And he was aware of it, for he said, with one of his short laughs:
Man-play, Miss Brewster. Somewhat rougher, I warrant, than what you have been used to, but still-man- play. The shark was not in the reckoning. It -
But at this juncture, Mugridge, who had lifted his head and ascertained the extent of his loss, floundered over on the deck and buried his teeth in Wolf Larsens leg. Wolf Larsen stooped, coolly, to the Cockney, and pressed with thumb and finger at the rear of the jaws and below the ears. The jaws opened with reluctance, and Wolf Larsen stepped free.
As I was saying, he went on, as though nothing unwonted had happened, the shark was not in the reckoning. It was - ahem - shall we say Providence?
She gave no sign that she had heard, though the expression of her eyes changed to one of inexpressible loathing as she started to turn away. She no more than started, for she swayed and tottered, and reached
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