Jack Grey, Second Mate/Chapter VI

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The following day it was a somewhat cowed lot of men who came aft, at the second mate's bidding, to the funeral of the boatswain. Nor did his opinion of them, expressed tersely after the body had gone down into the darkness, help to reassure them. He told them that, at the first sign of further insubordination, he would shoot them down like the dogs they were; that, in future, there should be no afternoon watch below, and that work should be continued right through the two dog-watches. On learning this, there came a slight murmur, expressive of discontent checked by fear, from the men grouped below the break.

"Silence!" roared the second officer, and whipped out a pistol from his side pocket.

Instantly the murmur ceased; for the men, as was the second's intention, realized that he would stop nowhere to enforce his commands. And there was still vividly in their minds the execution of Cyrone.

As the men went forward, the first mate ventured a weak protest against the second's measures.

"You'll have 'em murdering us, Mr. Grey, if you go on like that! Why don't you speak to 'em nicely?"

The second mate looked down upon his superior. At first his glance denoted impatient contempt; but after the first moment an expression of tolerance spread over his features as he took in the other's almost pathetic weakness of face and figure.

"I believe you read the Bible, Mr. Dunn?" "I--I---" began the mate, flushing slightly. "Yes--perhaps I do sometimes. Why?"

"Well, you should know how little use swine have for pearls."

"You think, then, Mr. Grey--"

"I'm certain. That scum would take kindness for a sign of weakening on our part, and then--" He made an expressive gesture.

"I wish to God we were home!" said the mate fervently.

"You cheer up, mister!" replied the big officer. "If you have any trouble with your lot, don't stop to talk--shoot!"

"It's an awful thing to take a life."

"It is a necessary thing sometimes. And, besides, you have only to bang on the deck for me, and I'll be up in a brace of shakes."

And so, after a few more words of encouragement to the frightened man, the second left him in charge, and went below for a sleep.

True to his word, the second mate kept the mutinous crowd of sailormen hard at it from dawnto dusk. Even the first mate, inspired by his example and encouragement, made a brave attempt to follow in his wake. As the second mate put it, "Sweat the flesh off their bones, and they'll be too tired to use their dirty brains." Also, he was the more confident of keeping them in subjection, now that Pathan was safely ironed in the lazarette.

Thus, at last, matters seemed in a fair way to tend to a happy ending of the troubles that had beset them so far. Yet of one person this could not be said; for the mental condition of the captain's wife showed no signs of improvement. Fortunately, she was in no way violent and gave little trouble, her state being that of one suffering from melancholia in one of its quieter forms.

Then one morning it was discovered she was missing. A search was made through the ship, but without success. She was never found. Evidently the poor creature had crept on deck some time during the night and gone overboard.

From this, onward, nothing disturbed the monotony of the voyage for many days. The second mate kept the crew well in hand, in no way abating rigorous treatment of them, so that did he but raise a hand they jumped to do his bidding.

And now of Miss Eversley. Day by day the girl had found her thought centering upon the second mate. The horizon of her mind seemed bounded by him. She caught herself watching his least gesture as he paced the poop in his meditative fashion, or gave some order to the crew. Did the first mate relieve him, so that he could go below for a sleep, the deck seemed strangely empty, the wind chilly, the sea dull and uninteresting. Yet when he relieved the first mate, how different! Then the wind was warm, the sea full of an everlasting beauty, the deck, nay, the very planks of the deck, companionable.

And so she grew into the knowledge that she loved him, even to the extent of looking forward to her future life as a hideous blank, if he were not to share it; while he--silly man! He would break off his walks to sit and chat with her; but of that which she most desired to hear, not a word. Yet, by his eyes, she guessed that he cared; but for some reason--possibly because she was so much alone---he said nothing.

And so, at last, she might have come to aid him in spanning the gulf that remained yet between them; but that fate, in its own terrible way, took a hand.