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One night, about eleven o'clock, a man of Mr. Riach's watch (which was on deck) came below for his jacket; and instantly there began to go a whisper about the forecastle that "Shuan had done for him at last." There was no need of a name; we all knew who was meant; but we had scarce time to get the idea rightly in our heads, far less to speak of it, when the scuttle was again flung open, and Captain Hoseason came down the ladder. He looked sharply round the bunks in the tossing light of the lantern; and then, walking straight up to me, he addressed me, to my surprise, in tones of kindness.
"My man," said he, "we want ye to
serve in the round-house. You
Ransome are to change berths. Run
away aft with ye."
Even as he spoke, two seamen
appeared in the scuttle,
carrying Ransome in their arms; and the ship at that moment giving a
into the sea, and the lantern swinging, the light fell direct on the
It was as white as wax, and had a look upon it like
a dreadful smile.
The blood in me ran cold, and I drew in my breath as
if I had been
"Run away aft; run away aft with
And at that I brushed by the sailors and the boy (who neither spoke nor moved), and ran up the ladder on deck.
The brig was sheering swiftly and
giddily through a
long, cresting swell. She
the starboard tack, and on the left hand, under the arched foot of the
I could see the sunset still quite bright.
This, at such an hour of the night, surprised me
greatly; but I was too
ignorant to draw the true conclusion — that we were going north-about
Scotland, and were now on the high sea between the Orkney and Shetland
having avoided the dangerous currents of the Pentland Firth.
For my part, who had been so long shut in the dark
and knew nothing of
head-winds, I thought we might be half-way or more across the Atlantic.
And indeed (beyond that I wondered a little at the
lateness of the sunset
light) I gave no heed to it, and pushed on across the decks, running
seas, catching at ropes, and only saved from going overboard by one of
on deck, who had been always kind to me.
The round-house, for which I was bound, and where I was now to sleep and serve, stood some six feet above the decks, and considering the size of the brig, was of good dimensions. Inside were a fixed table and bench, and two berths, one for the captain and the other for the two mates, turn and turn about. It was all fitted with lockers from top to bottom, so as to stow away the officers' belongings and a part of the ship's stores; there was a second store-room underneath, which you entered by a hatchway in the middle of the deck; indeed, all the best of the meat and drink and the whole of the powder were collected in this place; and all the firearms, except the two pieces of brass ordnance, were set in a rack in the aftermost wall of the round-house. The most of the cutlasses were in another place.
A small window with a shutter on
each side, and a
skylight in the roof, gave it light by, day; and after dark there was a
always burning. It
was burning when
I entered, not brightly, but enough to show Mr. Shuan sitting at the
the brandy bottle and a tin pannikin in front of him.
He was a tall man, strongly made and very black; and
stared before him on the table like one stupid.
He took no notice of my coming in;
nor did he move
when the captain followed and leant on the berth beside me, looking
the mate. I stood
in great fear of
Hoseason, and had my reasons for it; but something told me I need not
of him just then; and I whispered in his ear: "How is he?" He shook
his head like one that does not know and does not wish to think, and
was very stern.
Presently Mr. Riach came in.
He gave the captain a glance that meant the boy was
dead as plain as
speaking, and took his place like the rest of us; so that we all three
without a word, staring down at Mr. Shuan, and Mr. Shuan (on his side)
without a word, looking hard upon the table.
All of a sudden he put out his hand
to take the
bottle; and at that Mr. Riach started forward and caught it away from
rather by surprise than violence, crying out, with an oath, that there
too much of this work altogether, and that a judgment would fall upon
And as he spoke (the weather sliding-doors standing
open) he tossed the
bottle into the sea.
Mr. Shuan was on his feet in a trice; he still looked dazed, but he meant murder, ay, and would have done it, for the second time that night, had not the captain stepped in between him and his victim.
"Sit down!" roars the captain.
"Ye sot and swine, do ye know what ye've done? Ye've
Mr. Shuan seemed to understand; for
he sat down
again, and put up his hand to his brow.
"Well," he said, "he brought me a
At that word, the captain and I and Mr. Riach all looked at each other for a second with a kind of frightened look; and then Hoseason walked up to his chief officer, took him by the shoulder, led him across to his bunk, and bade him lie down and go to sleep, as you might speak to a bad child. The murderer cried a little, but he took off his sea-boots and obeyed.
"Ah!" cried Mr. Riach, with a
voice, "ye should have interfered long syne.
It's too late now."
"Mr. Riach," said the captain,
night's work must never be kennt in Dysart.
The boy went overboard, sir; that's what the story
is; and I would give
five pounds out of my pocket it was true!" He turned to the table.
"What made ye throw the good bottle away?" he added.
"There was nae sense in that, sir. Here, David, draw
me another. They're
in the bottom locker;" and he tossed me a key.
"Ye'll need a glass yourself, sir," he added to
"Yon was an ugly thing to see."
So the pair sat down and
hob-a-nobbed; and while they
did so, the murderer, who had been lying and whimpering in his berth,
himself upon his elbow and looked at them and at me.
That was the first night of my new
duties; and in the
course of the next day I had got well into the run of them.
I had to serve at the meals, which the captain took
at regular hours,
sitting down with the officer who was off duty; all the day through I
running with a dram to one or other of my three masters; and at night I
a blanket thrown on the deck boards at the aftermost end of the
right in the draught of the two doors.
was a hard and a cold bed; nor was I suffered to sleep without
some one would be always coming in from deck to get a dram, and when a
watch was to be set, two and sometimes all three would sit down and
brew a bowl
together. How they
health, I know not, any more than how I kept my own.
And yet in other ways it was an
There was no cloth to lay; the meals were either of
oatmeal porridge or
salt junk, except twice a week, when there was duff: and though I was
enough and (not being firm on my sealegs) sometimes fell with what I
bringing them, both Mr. Riach and the captain were singularly patient.
I could not but fancy they were making up lee-way
with their consciences,
and that they would scarce have been so good with me if they had not
As for Mr. Shuan, the drink or his
crime, or the two
together, had certainly troubled his mind.
I cannot say I ever saw him in his proper wits.
He never grew used to my being there, stared at me
(sometimes, I could have thought, with terror), and more than once drew
from my hand when I was serving him. I was pretty sure from the first
had no clear mind of what he had done, and on my second day in the
had the proof of it. We
and he had been staring at me a long time, when all at once, up he got,
as death, and came close up to me, to my great terror.
But I had no cause to be afraid of him.
"You were not here before?" he asked.
"No, sir," said I."
"There was another boy?" he asked
and when I had answered him, "Ah!" says he, "I thought
that," and went and sat down, without another word, except to call for
You may think it strange, but for all the horror I had, I was still sorry for him. He was a married man, with a wife in Leith; but whether or no he had a family, I have now forgotten; I hope not.
Altogether it was no very hard life
for the time it
lasted, which (as you are to hear) was not long.
I was as well fed as the best of them; even their
which were the great dainty, I was allowed my share of; and had I liked
have been drunk from morning to night, like Mr. Shuan.
I had company, too, and good company of its sort.
Mr. Riach, who had been to the college, spoke to me
like a friend when he
was not sulking, and told me many curious things, and some that were
and even the captain, though he kept me at the stick's end the most
part of the
time, would sometimes unbuckle a bit, and tell me of the fine countries
The shadow of poor Ransome, to be sure, lay on all four of us, and on me and Mr. Shuan in particular, most heavily. And then I had another trouble of my own. Here I was, doing dirty work for three men that I looked down upon, and one of whom, at least, should have hung upon a gallows; that was for the present; and as for the future, I could only see myself slaving alongside of negroes in the tobacco fields. Mr. Riach, perhaps from caution, would never suffer me to say another word about my story; the captain, whom I tried to approach, rebuffed me like a dog and would not hear a word; and as the days came and went, my heart sank lower and lower, till I was even glad of the work which kept me from thinking.Click here to continue to the next chapter of Kidnapped