The Sea Wolf HTML version

I scarcely know where to begin, though I sometimes facetiously
place the cause of it all to Charley Furuseth’s credit. He kept a
summer cottage in Mill Valley, under the shadow of Mount Tamalpais,
and never occupied it except when he loafed through the winter
mouths and read Nietzsche and Schopenhauer to rest his brain. When
summer came on, he elected to sweat out a hot and dusty existence
in the city and to toil incessantly. Had it not been my custom to
run up to see him every Saturday afternoon and to stop over till
Monday morning, this particular January Monday morning would not
have found me afloat on San Francisco Bay.
Not but that I was afloat in a safe craft, for the Martinez was a
new ferry-steamer, making her fourth or fifth trip on the run
between Sausalito and San Francisco. The danger lay in the heavy
fog which blanketed the bay, and o f which, as a landsman, I had
little apprehension. In fact, I remember the placid exaltation
with whic h I took up my position on the forward upper deck,
directly beneath the pilot-house, and allowed the mystery of the
fog to lay hold of my imagination. A fresh breeze was blowing, and
for a time I was alone in the moist obscurity–yet not alone, for I
was dimly conscious of the presence of the pilot, and of what I
took to be the captain, in the glass hous e above my head.
I remember thinking how comfortable it was, this division of labour
which made it unnecessary for me to study fogs, winds, tides, and
navigation, in order to visit my friend who lived across an arm of
the sea. It was good that men should be specialists, I mused. The
peculiar knowledge of the pilot and captain suced for many
thousands of people who knew no more of the sea and navigation than
I knew. On the other hand, instead of having to devote my energy
to the learning of a multitude of things, I concentrated it upon a
few particular things, such as, for instance, the analysis of Poe’s
place in American literature–an essay of mine, by the way, in the
current Atlantic. Coming aboard, as I passed through the cabin, I
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had noticed with greedy eyes a stout gentleman reading t he
Atlantic, which was open at my very essay. And there it was again,
the division of labour, the special knowledge of the pilot and
captain which permitted the stout gentleman to read my special
knowledge on Poe while they carried him safely from Saus alito to
San Francisco.
A red-fac ed man, slamming the cabin door behind him and stumping
out on the deck, interrupted my reflections, though I made a mental
note of the topic for use in a pro jected essay which I had thought
of calling ”The Necessity for Freedom: A Plea for the Artist.”
The red-faced man shot a glance up at the pilot-house, gazed around
at the fog, stumped across the deck and back (he evidently had
artificial legs), and stood still by my side, legs wide apart, and
with an expression of keen enjoyment on his face. I was not wrong
when I decided that his days had been spent on the sea.
”It’s nasty weather like this here that turns heads grey before
their time,” he said, with a nod toward the pilot-house.
”I had not thought there was any particular strain,” I answered.