The sea-wolf by jack london


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 months 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 of which, as a landsman, I had little
apprehension. In fact, I remember the placid exaltation with which 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 house above my head.
I remember thinking how comfortable it was, this division of labor
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 sufficed 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
had noticed with greedy eyes a stout gentleman reading the 'Atlantic,'
which was open at my very essay. And there it was again, the
division of labor, 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 Sausalito to San Francisco.
A red-faced 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 projected 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 gray before
their time,' he said, with a nod toward the pilot-house.
'I had not thought there was any particular strain,' I answered. 'It
seems as simple as a-b-c. They know the direction by compass, the