Jack Grey, Second Mate/Chapter V
A week passed in quietness, and, though the second mate and the boatswain between them had kept a strict watch upon the male passenger's movements, there had been nothing that could be looked upon with suspicion; for they had no knowledge of the tightly folded notes flipped to the helmsman, and by him conveyed forward, and read for the delectation of the mutinous crowd in the forecastle.
It was extraordinary that Pathan should discontinue so abruptly his nocturnal visits to the men. Possibly he had caught a stray word or two of the boatswain's confabulation with the second mate, and so taken fright. Whatever it was, the fact remained that it was impossible to come upon anything which would justify their putting him out of the way of doing mischief. Even the boatswain's complaints about the men's behavior seemed to be lacking foundation during this time, and altogether the ship appeared to be quieting down nicely.
Though there had seemed of late little need for anticipating trouble, yet the second mate had his doubts but that there was something under this apparent calm, and, having his doubts, took the precaution to carry a companionable weapon in his side pocket.
In the end, events proved that he was right; for, one afternoon on watch, the boatswain, chancing to have physical trouble with one of the men, the rest of the watch closed in upon him in a mob. At that the second mate went down to take a turn, which turn he took to such a tune that he had three of them stretched out before they were well aware that he was among them. They were beginning to give before his onslaught when suddenly he heard Pathan's voice, away aft, singing out:
"Get on to him, lads! Now's your time! Give the bully a taste of his own sort!"
At that the rest of them turned upon him with a rush, leaving the sadly mauled boatswain to himself. And now the second mate showed of what he was made. They were clinging on to him like a lot of weasels-- gripping his legs to trip him, grasping at his hands and arms, and climbing on his back. One of these latter having clasped hands under his chin, was doing his utmost to throttle him.
This the second mate foiled by unclasping the fellow's dirty paws and pulling him bodily over his head, bringing him, with a continuation of the movement, crashing down upon those of his attackers immediately in front. At the same instant, the boatswain, being by now somewhat recovered, laid hold upon one of those in the rear and hauled him off. Even as he did so, there came the sound of a pistol shot.
The second mate hove himself round carrying the mass of clinging men with him. He saw Pathan coming along the decks toward them at a run. In his hand was a pistol, with the smoke still rising from it. Upon the deck lay the boatswain. He was kicking and twitching; for it was he whom the passenger had shot.
"You-----skunk!" roared the second mate. He caught two of his attackers by the hair of their heads and beat their skulls together so they became immediately senseless.
He saw Pathan halt within a dozen feet of him and aim straight at his head. He had been dead the following instant, but that there happened a diversion.
A white face flashed into the field of his vision, and the next moment Miss Eversley had thrown ahandful of some whitish powder into the man's face. The pistol dropped with a thud, and from Pathan there was nothing save a mixture of gasps and shouts, violent sneezing, and coughs that broke off oddly into breathless blasphemy.
The second mate shouted incoherently. Then the girl was upon his assailants, throwing handfuls of the powder into their faces; whereupon they loosed him, as if their strength had gone from them, and fell to much the same antics as had Pathan. Some of the powder rose and assailed the second officer's nostrils, so that he sneezed violently. It was pepper!
He turned to the girl. At her feet lay the tin with which she had wrought his relief. She herself was standing, crying and sneezing along with the rest, and trying to wipe her eyes with a peppery handkerchief.
The second mate's glance noted the pistol dropped by Pathan, and he stepped over, and, picking it up, put it in his pocket. Between him and the group of sneezing, choking men lay the body of the boatswain. A lot of the pepper had been spilt upon his upturned face, yet he moved no whit. He was quite dead.
"What's happened, Mr. Grey?" asked a thin voice at his elbow.
"Rank mutiny!" he replied.
"Whatever shall we do?" returned the voice, the owner of which was the first mate. "Whatever shall we do?"
"Nothing," said the second mate shortly.
He turned from the mate and bellowed to the other watch who were coming aft in a body, having been aroused by the noise.
"Now then, my lads! Up forrard with you! Smartly!" And he pulled out his revolver.
They went backward with a surge as he covered them.
"Back into the fo'cas'le! Don't stir out till I tell you!"
The threatening weapon, backed by the determination of the man, overawed them and they went quickly.
"Close that door!" he roared.
It was closed immediately. Then he turned his attention to those around. Miss Eversley was standing near, her cheeks white, but her eyes and nose very red. It was plain to him that she was all of a tremble and like to fall, so that, without more ado, he took her by the shoulders and led her to a seat upon a spar lashed along by the bulwarks.
"Now, don't faint," he commanded.
"I'm not going to," she said soberly.
He left her hurriedly; for the men, having recovered from the effects of the pepper, were gathered in a clump and eying him doubtfully. To the right, Pathan had got upon his feet. It is just possible that in another moment they would have been upon him, which would have meant the loosing of the other watch, had he not acted with decision.
"Cyrone and Andy," he shouted, facing them squarely, "aft with you, and tell the steward to pass out the irons!"
At the word, Andy started aft to obey. But Cyrone, one of those who had been foremost in the trouble, made no move.
"Cyrone!" said the second mate.
The man had done well to understand the dangerous quiet in his tone; but he did not. Instead, with unbounded insolence, he turned to the fellows surrounding him.
"Who for the irons, hey? They for we! I know! I know!" he shouted excitedly, and broke off into an unintelligible jargon of words.
"For to-----you go!" shouted the wretch in reply. It was evident that he was depending on the others to back him up.
The second mate said no word, but raised his pistol. The men about Cyrone scattered to each side. They had seen the second mate's eyes. In that last moment the fellow himself must have come suddenly into knowledge; for he started back, crying out something in an altered tone.
There was a scream from Miss Eversley, which blent with the sudden crack of the weapon; then Cyrone staggered and fell sideways on to the hatch. There was an instant of strange silence, broken by a dullish thud on the deck behind.
"Jardkenoff, go along with Andy for those irons," said the second mate in a level tone.
At his order the whole of them had started forward like frightened animals.
Jardkenoff ran past him, crying "Yi, yi, sir!" in a shaking voice.
While they were gone for the irons, the second mate bade the others lift the bodies of the boatswain and Cyrone on to the hatch. Then he looked round to discover the cause of that thud upon the deck. He saw that Miss Eversley had fallen forward off the spar on to her face, and atthat he hastened to lift her. Fortunately, she had escaped injury, at which unconsciously he sighed relief. Then, taking her into his arms, he carried her to the hatch, singing out to one of the men by name to run aft to bring the steward with some brandy.
All this while, Pathan, the passenger, had stood in a dazed fashion beside the main-mast. Now, thinking he perceived a chance to steal aft to the temporary safety of his room, he began to sidle quietly away. It was no use, for the mate's voice pulled him up short before he had gone a dozen feet.
"You will stay where you are, Mr. Pathan!" was all that he said.
When the irons came, the steward accompanied them, carrying a glass full of brandy. This, under the eye of the second mate, he proceeded to administer. At the same time, the officer was superintending the ironing of Pathan. By the time that this was accomplished, Miss Eversley had begun to come to a knowledge of her surroundings, and presently sat up. Before this, however, the second mate had seen to it that Pathan was removed to the lazarette, for he would not have her upset further by sight of the murderer.
As soon as she was strong enough, he gave her his arm and led her aft to her cabin. In the saloon they came upon the captain's wife sitting limply in one of the chairs. At their entrance, she started up, and cried out something in a frightened voice. The poor woman seemed demented and quite incapable of rational speech. It was evident that the scene on deck--which apparently she had witnessed--had, in conjunction with her recent loss, temporarily unsettled her mental balance.
With difficulty they persuaded her to go to her room, after which the second mate returned to the deck, with the intention of trying to put a little heart into the nonentity whom Fate had placed above him in the scale of authority.
That evening, in the second dog-watch, the body of Cyrone was, by his orders, ignominiously dumped over the side without ceremony, and with a piece of rope and holystone attached to his feet.