Sigsand Manuscript


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Immediately afterward, the Skipper heard the Mate bellowing for the watch to lay aft; then his heavy tread came tumbling down into the saloon, and the Captain, who had left his bunk to turn up his lamp, met him in the doorway. A minute was sufficient to put the Mate in possession of such facts as the Skipper himself had gleaned, and after that, they lit the saloon lamp and examined the floor and companion stairs. In several places they found traces of blood which showed that one, at least, of Captain Tom's shots had got home. They were also found to lead a little way along the lee side of the poop; but ceased altogether nearly opposite the end of the skylight.
As may be imagined, this affair had given the Captain a big shaking up, and he felt so little like attempting further sleep that he proceeded to dress; an action which his wife imitated, and the two of them passed the rest of the night on the poop; for, as Mrs. Pemberton said: You felt safer up in the fresh air. You could at least feel that you were near help. A sentiment which, probably, Captain Tom felt more distinctly than he could have put into words. Yet he had another thought of which he was much more acutely aware, and which he did manage to formulate in some shape to the Mates during the course of the following day. As he put it:
"It's my wife that I'm afraid for! That thing (whatever it is) seems to be making a dead set for her!" His face was anxious and somewhat haggard under the tan. The two Mates nodded.
"I should keep a man in the saloon at night, Sir," suggested the Second Mate, after a moment's thought. "And let her keep with you as much as possible."
Captain Tom Pemberton nodded with a slight air of relief. The reasonableness of the precaution appealed to him. He would have a man in the saloon after dark, and he would see that the lamp was kept going; then, at least, his wife would be safe, for the only entrance to his cabin was through the saloon. As for the shattered port, it had been replaced the day after he had broken it, and now every dog watch he saw to it himself that it was securely screwed up, and not only that, hut the iron storm-cover as well; so that he had no fears in that direction.
That night at eight o'clock, as the roll was being called, the Second Mate turned and beckoned respectfully to the Captain, who immediately left his wife and stepped up to him.
"About that man, Sir," said the Second. "I'm up here till twelve o'clock. Who would you care to have out of my watch?"
"Just as you like, Mister Kasson. Who can you best spare?"
"Well, Sir, if it comes to that, there's old Tarpin. He's not been much use on a rope since that tumble he got the other night. He says he hurt his arm as well, and he's not able to use it."
"Very well, Mr. Kasson. Tell him to step up.
This the Second Mate did, and in a few moments old Tarpin stood before them. His face was bandaged up, and his right arm was slipped out of the sleeve of his coat.
"You seem to have been in the wars, Tarpin," said the Skipper,eyeing him up and down.
"Yes, Sir," replied the man with a touch of grimness.
"I want you down in the saloon till twelve o'clock," the Captain went on. "If you -er-hear anything, call me, do you hear?"
The man gave out a gruff "aye, aye, Sir," and went slowly aft.
"I don't expect he's best pleased, Sir," said the Second with a slight smile.
"How do you mean, Mister Kasson?"
"Well, Sir, ever since he and Coalson were chased, and he got the tumble, he's taken to waiting around the decks at night. He seems a plucky old devil, and it's my belief he's waiting to get square with whatever it was that made him run.
"Then he's just the man I want in the saloon," said the Skipper.
"It may just happen that he gets his chance of coming close to quarters with this infernal hell-thing that's knocking about. And by Jove, if he does, he and I'll be friends for evermore."
At nightfall Captain Tom Pemberton and his wife went below. They found old Tarpin sitting on one of the benches. At their entrance he rose to his feet and touched his cap awkwardly to them. The Captain stopped a moment and spoke to him:
"Mind, Tarpin, the least sound of anything about, and call me! And see you keep the lamp bright."
'Aye, aye, Sir," said the man quietly; and the Skipper left him and followed his wife into their cabin.