The Sea Wolf
My intimacy with Wolf Larsen increases - if by intimacy may be denoted those relations
which exist between master and man, or, better yet, between king and jester. I am to him
no more than a toy, and he values me no more than a child values a toy. My function is to
amuse, and so long as I amuse all goes well; but let him become bored, or let him have
one of his black moods come upon him, and at once I am relegated from cabin table to
galley, while, at the same time, I am fortunate to escape with my life and a whole body.
The loneliness of the man is slowly being borne in upon me. There is not a man aboard
but hates or fears him, nor is there a man whom he does not despise. He seems
consuming with the tremendous power that is in him and that seems never to have found
adequate expression in works. He is as Lucifer would be, were that proud spirit banished
to a society of soulless, Tomlinsonian ghosts.
This loneliness is bad enough in itself, but, to make it worse, he is oppressed by the
primal melancholy of the race. Knowing him, I review the old Scandinavian myths with
clearer understanding. The white-skinned, fair-haired savages who created that terrible
pantheon were of the same fibre as he. The frivolity of the laughter-loving Latins is no
part of him. When he laughs it is from a humour that is nothing else than ferocious. But
he laughs rarely; he is too often sad. And it is a sadness as deep-reaching as the roots of
the race. It is the race heritage, the sadness which has made the race sober-minded, clean-
lived and fanatically moral, and which, in this latter connection, has culminated among
the English in the Reformed Church and Mrs. Grundy.
In point of fact, the chief vent to this primal melancholy has been religion in its more
agonizing forms. But the compensations of such religion are denied Wolf Larsen. His
brutal materialism will not permit it. So, when his blue moods come on, nothing remains
for him, but to be devilish. Were he not so terrible a man, I could sometimes feel sorry
for him, as instance three mornings ago, when I went into his stateroom to fill his water-
bottle and came unexpectedly upon him. He did not see me. His head was buried in his
hands, and his shoulders were heaving convulsively as with sobs. He seemed torn by
some mighty grief. As I softly withdrew I could hear him groaning, "God! God! God!"
Not that he was calling upon God; it was a mere expletive, but it came from his soul.
At dinner he asked the hunters for a remedy for headache, and by evening, strong man
that he was, he was half-blind and reeling about the cabin.
"I've never been sick in my life, Hump," he said, as I guided him to his room. "Nor did I
ever have a headache except the time my head was healing after having been laid open
for six inches by a capstan-bar."
For three days this blinding headache lasted, and he suffered as wild animals suffer, as it
seemed the way on ship to suffer, without plaint, without sympathy, utterly alone.