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The Sea Wolf

Chapter 8
Sometimes I think Wolf Larsen mad, or half-mad at least, what of his strange moods and
vagaries. At other times I take him for a great man, a genius who has never arrived. And,
finally, I am convinced that he is the perfect type of the primitive man, born a thousand
years or generations too late and an anachronism in this culminating century of
civilization. He is certainly an individualist of the most pronounced type. Not only that,
but he is very lonely. There is no congeniality between him and the rest of the men
aboard ship. His tremendous virility and mental strength wall him apart. They are more
like children to him, even the hunters, and as children he treats them, descending perforce
to their level and playing with them as a man plays with puppies. Or else he probes them
with the cruel hand of a vivisectionist, groping about in their mental processes and
examining their souls as though to see of what soul-stuff is made.
I have seen him a score of times, at table, insulting this hunter or that, with cool and level
eyes and, withal, a certain air of interest, pondering their actions or replies or petty rages
with a curiosity almost laughable to me who stood onlooker and who understood.
Concerning his own rages, I am convinced that they are not real, that they are sometimes
experiments, but that in the main they are the habits of a pose or attitude he has seen fit to
take toward his fellow-men. I know, with the possible exception of the incident of the
dead mate, that I have not seen him really angry; nor do I wish ever to see him in a
genuine rage, when all the force of him is called into play.
While on the question of vagaries, I shall tell what befell Thomas Mugridge in the cabin,
and at the same time complete an incident upon which I have already touched once or
twice. The twelve o'clock dinner was over, one day, and I had just finished putting the
cabin in order, when Wolf Larsen and Thomas Mugridge descended the companion
stairs. Though the cook had a cubby-hole of a state-room opening off from the cabin, in
the cabin itself he had never dared to linger or to be seen, and he flitted to and fro, once
or twice a day, a timid spectre.
"So you know how to play 'Nap,'" Wolf Larsen was saying in a pleased sort of voice. "I
might have guessed an Englishman would know. I learned it myself in English ships."
Thomas Mugridge was beside himself, a blithering imbecile, so pleased was he at
chumming thus with the captain. The little airs he put on and the painful striving to
assume the easy carriage of a man born to a dignified place in life would have been
sickening had they not been ludicrous. He quite ignored my presence, though I credited
him with being simply unable to see me. His pale, wishy- washy eyes were swimming
like lazy summer seas, though what blissful visions they beheld were beyond my
imagination.
"Get the cards, Hump," Wolf Larsen ordered, as they took seats at the table. "And bring
out the cigars and the whisky you'll find in my berth."
 
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