The Sea Wolf HTML version

Chapter 14
It has dawned upon me that I have never placed a proper valuation upon womankind. For
that matter, though not amative to any considerable degree so far as I have discovered, I
was never outside the atmosphere of women until now. My mother and sisters were
always about me, and I was always trying to escape them; for they worried me to
distraction with their solicitude for my health and with their periodic inroads on my den,
when my orderly confusion, upon which I prided myself, was turned into worse
confusion and less order, though it looked neat enough to the eye. I never could find
anything when they had departed. But now, alas, how welcome would have been the feel
of their presence, the frou- frou and swish-swish of their skirts which I had so cordially
detested! I am sure, if I ever get home, that I shall never be irritable with them again.
They may dose me and doctor me morning, noon, and night, and dust and sweep and put
my den to rights every minute of the day, and I shall only lean back and survey it all and
be thankful in that I am possessed of a mother and some several sisters.
All of which has set me wondering. Where are the mothers of these twenty and odd men
on the Ghost? It strikes me as unnatural and unhealthful that men should be totally
separated from women and herd through the world by themselves. Coarseness and
savagery are the inevitable results. These men about me should have wives, and sisters,
and daughters; then would they be capable of softness, and tenderness, and sympathy. As
it is, not one of them is married. In years and years not one of them has been in contact
with a good woman, or within the influence, or redemption, which irresistibly radiates
from such a creature. There is no balance in their lives. Their masculinity, which in itself
is of the brute, has been over- developed. The other and spiritual side of their natures has
been dwarfed - atrophied, in fact.
They are a company of celibates, grinding harshly against one another and growing daily
more calloused from the grinding. It seems to me impossible sometimes that they ever
had mothers. It would appear that they are a half-brute, half-human species, a race apart,
wherein there is no such thing as sex; that they are hatched out by the sun like turtle eggs,
or receive life in some similar and sordid fashion; and that all their days they fester in
brutality and viciousness, and in the end die as unlovely as they have lived.
Rendered curious by this new direction of ideas, I talked with Johansen last night - the
first superfluous words with which he has favoured me since the voyage began. He left
Sweden when he was eighteen, is now thirty-eight, and in all the intervening time has not
been home once. He had met a townsman, a couple of years before, in some sailor
boarding-house in Chile, so that he knew his mother to be still alive.
"She must be a pretty old woman now," he said, staring meditatively into the binnacle
and then jerking a sharp glance at Harrison, who was steering a point off the course.
"When did you last write to her?"