The Sea Wolf HTML version

Chapter 29
"Fool!" I cried aloud in my vexation.
I had unloaded the boat and carried its contents high up on the beach, where I had set
about making a camp. There was driftwood, though not much, on the beach, and the sight
of a coffee tin I had taken from the Ghost's larder had given me the idea of a fire.
"Blithering idiot!" I was continuing.
But Maud said, "Tut, tut," in gentle reproval, and then asked why I was a blithering idiot.
"No matches," I groaned. "Not a match did I bring. And now we shall have no hot coffee,
soup, tea, or anything!"
"Wasn't it - er - Crusoe who rubbed sticks together?" she drawled.
"But I have read the personal narratives of a score of shipwrecked men who tried, and
tried in vain," I answered. "I remember Winters, a newspaper fellow with an Alaskan and
Siberian reputation. Met him at the Bibelot once, and he was telling us how he attempted
to make a fire with a couple of sticks. It was most amusing. He told it inimitably, but it
was the story of a failure. I remember his conclusion, his black eyes flashing as he said,
'Gentlemen, the South Sea Islander may do it, the Malay may do it, but take my word it's
beyond the white man.'"
"Oh, well, we've managed so far without it," she said cheerfully. "And there's no reason
why we cannot still manage without it."
"But think of the coffee!" I cried. "It's good coffee, too, I know. I took it from Larsen's
private stores. And look at that good wood."
I confess, I wanted the coffee badly; and I learned, not long afterward, that the berry was
likewise a little weakness of Maud's. Besides, we had been so long on a cold diet that we
were numb inside as well as out. Anything warm would have been most gratifying. But I
complained no more and set about making a tent of the sail for Maud.
I had looked upon it as a simple task, what of the oars, mast, boom, and sprit, to say
nothing of plenty of lines. But as I was without experience, and as every detail was an
experiment and every successful detail an invention, the day was well gone before her
shelter was an accomplished fact. And then, that night, it rained, and she was flooded out
and driven back into the boat.
The next morning I dug a shallow ditch around the tent, and, an hour later, a sudden gust
of wind, whipping over the rocky wall behind us, picked up the tent and smashed it down
on the sand thirty yards away.