Jack Grey, Second Mate/Chapter IV
It was in the afternoon watch, and Miss Eversley was sitting with a book in her lap, staring thoughtfully out across the sea.
Forward of her, the second mate tramped across the break of the poop. When she had appeared on deck, he had been pacing fore and aft along the poop, but had kept since then to the fore part of the deck.
Of the male passenger there was no sign. Indeed, since the big officer's "handling" of him, he had kept quite away from her, so that at last she was beginning to find her stay aboard not at all unpleasant. Occasionally the girl's glance would stray inboard to the great silent man, smoking and meditating as he paced across the planks.
It was curious (she recognized the fact) how often of late she had found her thoughts dwelling upon him. He was no longer a nonentity--- something below the line of her horizon--but a man, and a man in whom she was beginning to be interested. She remembered now--what at the time she had scarcely noticed--her casual ignoring of his proffered aid as she stepped aboard. It had seemed nothing then to her, no more than if she had casually rejected the aid of a footman; but now she could not comprehend how she had done it.
From this her memory led her to that distinctlyto-be-regretted remark about his smoking. She watched him, and realized the more completely as she did so that she would be vitally afraid to do such a thing again; for, all unaware to herself, the manhood of the man was mastering her. Yet, at this time, she had no realization of the fact; nothing beyond that she was interested in him, perhapssomewhat afraid and certainly a little desirous of knowing him.
On the second mate's part, he was thinking of other things than her. The preceding day he had been obliged to step down on the main deck to exert authority, and had succeeded only by laying out a couple of the crew. That the disaffection was due, in part at least, to Mr. Pathan he had very little doubt; but no proof that would justify him in putting the man in irons, as he had determined to do the very moment such was forthcoming. Also, he knew that the captain's death had unsettled them, and that there were vague ideas among them that now they were under no compulsion to obey orders. It was doubtless, along these lines that Pathan was working with them, and the thought made the big officer grit his teeth.
"Look out, Mr. Grey!"
The words came shrill and sudden in the voice of Miss Eversley, and the second officer turned sharply from where he had stopped a moment to lean upon the rail. He saw that she was on her feet, her arm extended toward him, while her gaze flickered between him and aloft. In the same instant, there was a sort of sogging thud behind him.
His stare had followed the girl's, and for an instant he had seen the dark face of one of the crew over the belly of the mizzen topsail; then he had twisted quickly to see the reason of that noise, though already half comprehending the cause. In that portion of the rail over which he had just been leaning was stuck a heavy steel marlinspike, the sharp point thereof appearing below, for it had penetrated right through the thick teak.
For a moment he looked at it, while his face grew quietly grim. Then he turned and walked toward the mizzen rigging. From here he could look up abaft the mast. Thus he saw the man who had dropped the spike making his way rapidly from aloft.
Getting into the lower rigging, the man--who proved to be one of those the second mate had floored the previous day--called out in broken English his regret for the accident; but the officer, knowing how little of an accident there had been about the affair, said nothing. Then, as soon as the creature put foot on the deck, he caught him by the nape of the neck and walked him forward to where the spike stood up in the rail.
Below on the main deck stood several of the crew, watching what would happen, and fully prepared to make trouble if they got the half of a chance. They saw the second officer grasp the embedded spike with one great hand, then with apparent ease bend it from side to side till it broke, leaving in the rail that portion which had penetrated.
Immediately afterward, quite coolly, and calculating the force of the blow, he struck the man with it upon the side of the head, so that he went limp in his grasp; then he laid him down gently on the hencoop and bade a couple of them come up and carry him to his bunk. And this, being thoroughly cowed, as was the second mate's intention, they did without so much as a murmur.
As soon as the men were gone with their burden, he walked aft to where the girl stood.
"Thank you, Miss Eversley," he said simply. "I should have been spitted like a frog if you had not called."
She made no pretense of replying, and he looked at her more particularly. She was extraordinarily pale, and staring at him out of frightened eyes. He noticed also that she held to the edge of the skylight as if for support.
"You are not well?" he said, and made as if to support her.
But she warded him off with a gesture.
"What a brute you are!" she said in a voice that would have been cold had it been less intense.
He looked at her a moment before he replied, as if weighing the use of speech.
"You don't understand," he remarked at last, calmly. "We have a rough crowd to handle, and half measures would be worse than useless. Won't you sit down?" And he indicated the chair behind her.
"It--it was butchery!" she remarked with a sort of cold anger, and ignoring his suggestion.
"Very nearly--if you hadn't called." There had come a suggestion of humor about the corners of his mouth.
She groped backward vaguely for the chair, and seemed unconscious that it was his hands which guided her there.
"Now, see here, Miss Eversley. You must really allow me to be the better judge in a matter of this sort. I cannot afford to sign for the long trip, if only for your sake."
"For my sake!" Her voice sounded scornful. "Inwhat way does it concern me?"
The grimness crept back into his face and chased away the scarcely perceptible humor.
"In this way," he replied in a voice as nearly as cold as her own but for a certain almost savage intensity. "I, and I alone, am keeping matters quiet aboard here; for I may as well tell you at once that the first mate does not count for that much"--and he snapped his finger and thumb--"among the crowd we've got in this packet. They're quiet at present only because they're afraid of me."
"What do you mean?" She asked the question with a brave assumption of indifference, to which her frightened eyes gave no support. "How does it matter to me whether your men are quiet or not?"
He looked at her a moment quietly and with something in the expression of his face that would have been contempt had it not been tempered by a deeper emotion.
"Listen!" he said, and she quailed before his masterfulness. "If that spike had done its work just now, you had been better dead than here. Do you think--"
He did not finish but turned from her and walked forward along the deck, leaving her gazing at the nakedness of a hideous possibility.