That day he decreased the distance between him and the ship by three miles;the next day by two-for he was crawling now as Bill had crawled;and the end of the day found the ship still seven mailes away and him unable to make even a mile a day. Still the indian summer held on, and he continued to crawl and faint ,turn and turn about; and ever the sick wolf coughed and wheezed at his heels. His knees had become raw meat like his feet, and though he paddled them with the shirt from his back it was a red track he left behind him on the moss and stones. Once , glancing back, he saw the wolf licking hungrily his bleeding trail, and he saw sharply what his own end might be-unless-unless he could get the wolf. Then began as grim a tragedy of existence as was ever played-a sick man that crawled, a sick wolf that limped, two creatures dragging their dying carcasses across the desolation and hunting each other’s lives.
Had it been a well wolf, it would not have mattered so much to the man;but the thought of going to feed the maw of that loathsome and all but dead thing was repugnant to him. He was finicky. His mind had begun to wander again, and to be perplexed by hallucinations, while his lucid intervals grew rarer and shorter.
He was awaken once from a faint by a wheeze close in his ear.The wolf leaped lamely back, losing its footing and falling in its weakness. It was ludicrous, but he was not amused. Nor was he even afraid. He was too far gone for that. But his mind was for the moment clear, and he lay and considered.
The ship was more than four miles away. He could see it quite distinctly when he rubbed the mists out of his eyes. But he could never crawl those four miles. He knew that, and was very calm in the knowledge. He knew that he could not crawl half a mile. And yet he wanted to live. It was unreasonable that he should die after all he had undergone. Fate asked too much of him. And , dying, he declined to die. It was stark madness, perhaps, but in the very grip of Death he defied Death and refused to die.
He closed his eyes and composed himself with infinite precaution. He steeled himself to keep above the suffocating languor that lapped like a rising tide through all the wells of his being. It was very like a sea, this deadly languor, that rose and rose and drowned his consciousness bit by bit. Sometimes he was all but submerged, swimming through oblivion with a faltering stroke;and again, by some strange alchemy of soul, he would find another shred of will and strike out more strongly.