Sigsand Manuscript


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"I rec'on 'e must be rocky," one of the men remarked.
"Not 'im," said another. " 'e's bin 'avin' forty winks on the break, an' dreemed 'is mother-en-lore 'ad come on 'er visit, friendly like."
There was some laughter at this suggestion, and I caught myself smiling along with the rest; though I had no reason for sharing their belief, that there was nothing in it all.
"Might 'ave been a stowaway, yer know," I heard Quoin, the one who had suggested it before, remark to one of the A.B's named Stubbins--a short, rather surly-looking chap.
"Might have been hell!" returned Stubbins. "Stowaways hain't such fools as all that."
"I dunno," said the first. "I wish I 'ad arsked the Second what 'e thought about it."
"I don't think it was a stowaway, somehow," I said, chipping in. "What would a stowaway want aloft? I guess he'd be trying more for the Steward's pantry."
"You bet he would, hevry time," said Stubbins. He lit his pipe, and sucked at it, slowly.
"I don't hunderstand it, all ther same," he remarked, after a moment's silence.
"Neither do I," I said. And after that I was quiet for a while, listening to the run of conversation on the subject.
Presently, my glance fell upon Williams, the man who had spoken to me about "shadders." He was sitting in his bunk, smoking, and making no effort to join in the talk.
I went across to him.
"What do you think of it, Williams?" I asked. "Do you think the Second Mate really saw anything?"
He looked at me, with a sort of gloomy suspicion; but said nothing.
I felt a trifle annoyed by his silence; but took care not to show it. After a few moments, I went on.
"Do you know, Williams, I'm beginning to understand what you meant that night, when you said there were too many shadows."
"Wot yer mean?" he said, pulling his pipe from out of his mouth, and fairly surprised into answering.
"What I say, of course," I said. "There are too many shadows."
He sat up, and leant forward out from his bunk, extending his hand and pipe. His eyes plainly showed his excitement.
" 'ave yer seen--" he hesitated, and looked at me, struggling inwardly to express himself.
"Well?" I prompted.
For perhaps a minute he tried to say something. Then his expression altered suddenly from doubt, and something else more indefinite, to a pretty grim look of determination.
He spoke.
"I'm blimed," he said, "ef I don't tike er piy-diy out of 'er, shadders or no shadders."
I looked at him, with astonishment.
"What's it got to do with your getting a pay-day out of her?" I asked.
He nodded his head, with a sort of stolid resolution.
"Look 'ere," he said.
I waited.
"Ther crowd cleared"; he indicated with his hand and pipe towards the stern.
"You mean in 'Frisco?" I said.
"Yus," he replied; " 'an withart er cent of ther piy. I styied."
I comprehended him suddenly.
"You think they saw," I hesitated; then I said "shadows?"
He nodded; but said nothing.
"And so they all bunked?"
He nodded again, and began tapping out his pipe on the edge of his bunk-board.
"And the officers and the Skipper?" I asked.
"Fresh uns," he said, and got out of his bunk; for eight bells was striking.