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did not for an instant doubt, and the shadow of the crime seemed to lie like a material gloom upon the atmosphere of the plain interior.
I was in the mood, indeed, just then to be shocked and startled by little things; and I am not ashamed to own that I recoiled as though the ghost of the skipper stood before me to the sight that first met my eye on opening the door, of a pea-jacket and a sou'wester on the top of it hanging together by the same hook, and under the jacket a pair of breeches arched, empty as they were, to the exact posture Broadwater's shanks exhibited in life. I protest, the suit of clothes, with the thatch of the sou'wester coming down abaft the coat, looked so astonishingly like the old skipper, that for the instant I thought that he had hanged himself with his face to the bulkhead. There was a bunk in the corner with the bed-clothes tumbled ; over it a short hanging shelf holding a few nautical books; in a corner another table on which were a quadrant-case, a chronometer, a few mathematical instruments, and, very conspicuous, Broadwater's huge silver turnip watch. The soles of a pair of sea-boots, one foot lying upon another, glimmered out from the gloom under the bunk, as though the captain lay drunk and silent in the darkness there. I took notice, though now I wonder that 1 should have had eyes for such trifling details, of a likeness of Broadwater, and, as I supposed, of his wife facing each other; two heads cut out in black paper, with streaks of bronze to define the lineaments, mounted on a white ground. There was a canvas bag of charts leaning dropsically against the head of the bunk, and in a roll alongside it was a chart of the North Atlantic, which on opening I found pricked down to noon on the preceding day. The mate's log-book was upon the table. The writing in it was Both well's down to the time of his murder; a very neat, clean, almost ladylike hand, that threw into grotesque contrast old Broadwater's sprawl
ing, absurdly ill-spelt entries. Gordon, I suppose, poor fellow, had been without literature enough to qualify him to keep the book. Having made the necessary calculations to enable me to shape the course the men desired, I quitted the berth, grateful to escape an atmosphere in which I breathed with difficulty, and was passing through my cabin on my way to the deck, when I caught sight of Miss Grant looking out through her door. I immediately went to her. There was a resolved, quiet expression in her face, and her voice was without tremor as she said, " I overheard all that passed in the cabin. You do not doubt that the captain has been murdered?"
"I do not," I replied; "but the men must not imagine that we suspect them."
"How will they treat us %" "Oh, they are well disposed, respectful in their manner to me, and they consented at once to my request that the after part of the vessel should be used only by us. This was more than I had dared hope. You will have heard their demand that I should navigate the vessel to Cuba?"
"Yes," she exclaimed, catching her breath quickly; "it will be a roundabout way to Rio, if ever we get there." She smiled faintly and sighed. "Never fear, we shall get there," said I, cheerfully. "Broadwater has to be thanked for this abominable muddle. J foresaw it all. I was certain that the men would never suffer this vessel to proceed to her destination, call it Rio or any other place, under a captain whose evidence would hang the man who had freed them from the mate's tyranny. But let us most anxiously bear in mind, Miss Grant, that our policy is not to know that Broadwater has been made away with."
"Oh, I see that clearly," she answered.
"He has committed suicide. Dwell upon this view, and the thought of it will become a habit, and we shall be the safer to that extent. There is plenty of time before us in which to talk over our position and make plans. I will now go on deck and alter the vessel's course. The men must believe me honestly disposed—indeed I must prove myself so; for let them be called murderers — mutineers — the blood that has been shed is assuredly on the heads of Broadwater and Bothwell."
I raised her hand to my lips and went on deck. The morning was as brilliant as any that had ever shone over us. There was a light wind from the north-east, which I might have accepted as the first breathings of the regular trades, but for the absence of the familiar clouds which float like signals set in the blue heavens to mark the confines of these gracious and serviceable gales. The whole of the eastern sea stretched in a rippling dazzle as of wrinkled quicksilver, of so fiery an effulgence that the weeping eye went instantly from it to the west for the relief it got from the dark blue water there, and the soothing azure of the sky that sloped down to the soft liquid boundary. I ran a swift glance around the horizon, but there was nothing to be seen. The brig was under the shortened canvas of the preceding night; and Mole was pacing the deck with the conscious looks of a person in authority. Though it was yet early the cook had lighted the fire and most of the men were gathered about the little caboose, holding pots of hot coffee, some munching at biscuits, others smoking. There was a suggestion of orderliness amongst them that satisfied my eye. It was natural perhaps that, recollecting the ugly stain on the cabin-floor, I should, have thrown a hurried glance over the quarter-deck planking for a like hint that this time should concern Broadwater; but all glistened sand-white to the sun, with no further dyes than the violet pendulous shadows of spar, sail, and rigging. I stepped aft to the binnacle, where Mole at once joined me.
"The course to Cuba," said I, "running a line to the midship bearings of the island, is west by south. Better get your yards braced in and make sail upon the vessel."
He instantly sung out, "Hands to the braces! Square the yards for Cuba, bullies!"
The men drained their pots and sprang to the ropes. Never from the hour of getting the anchor off Deal had they exhibited such hearty nimbleness. Their songs had the true ring, and their notes swept aloft to the hollows of the canvas, and away into the airy blue over the side with the joyous echo of a homeward-bound chorus. I motioned, the man at the helm to put the wheel over, and the brig slowly floated round with her stern to the sun, and the wide, soft heave of the sea coming along under the light wind to the blue shadow of her starboard quarter on the water. "Steady!" said I; "now hold her at that, my man."
"Cuba '11 be under the bow then at this?" said he, with such a puckering of his face to the grin which overspread it, that it made one think of an old walnut-shell.
"Yes," said I, "in heading as you go we'll be running the island down in good time."
He leaned from the wheel to discharge a quantity of tobacco-juice over the stern. "Well," said he, "better a light pocket than a heavy heart. There'll be no paying off this woyage, I suppose. But, thank the Lard, there's been plenty o' paying out." He muttered Broadwater's name, calling curses upon it in accents by no means whispered, and out of the fulness of his soul fell a-talking to the brig with his eyes on the compass-card that swung sluggishly to the lubber's point.
I stood alone watching the men making sail upon the brig. Mole worked with the others, pulling hard, raising encouraging shouts, and springing here and there with the zeal of a man who considers it his duty to set an example. Events had coma in such a hustling throng that in sober truth I had scarcely yet had time to realize our position. Now as my eye went to the men aloft loosening the sails, and the fellows below bawling out at the sheets and halliards, I could find a moment for reflection. If Broadwater had been murdered, it was hard to imagine, by the hearty, careless behaviour and half-jocose airs of the crew, that they knew of it. Yet if murder had been done it would be sheer idleness to feign that the men could be ignorant of it. There was always the fellow at the wheel to stand looking on as a witness. If Broadwater had made away with himself, the splash of him as he went overboard must have been a distinct sound fit to catch any ear, even above all such surly, weltering noises as were rising out of the blackness last night, from the forecastle head to the binnacle; unless indeed the old man, with the sleek, secret, wary cunning of the sailor who had gone to his account in the English Channel, had slipped in the darkness into the lee main-chains, and then softly dropped into the sea.
But this was to suppose that he had destroyed himself, an idea not to be entertained for the space of a breath in the face of the memory of a nature which proved him to have been so grossly of the earth, that one would as soon think of a hog terminating its existence. No! if he were out of the ship, then he was a murdered man; which being past all doubt, I entered into some swift speculations as to the manner of his death ; and there being no hint upon the gleaming platform of the deck of the use of the knife, I concluded that he had been stunned and dropped overboard whilst still insensible. One man could have done this. Heavy as the square form of old Broadwater was, one pair of hands might have sufficed to drag the breathless body to the rail, and with vigorous upheaval swing it into a somersault over the bulwarks. Guilt, like terror, will often put a grip of steel into
nerveless fingers. But it was not to be supposed there were no witnesses to this crime. Broadwater was not the man to let the watch on deck skulk even in the blackest hour; therefore there would have been most of the sailors on the move as observers of all that could happen, from the forecastle to where the quarter-deck began; whilst aft was the helmsman with eyes for the rest of the ship there. Broadwater had been murdered, and all hands knew it! My heart turned sick and cold in me at the bare recollection of what had occurred during our execrable voyage, from the hour of Cooper's suicide to this moment; and I turned with a sense of faintness to the rail, and lay over it a minute or two to recover myself, halfdistraught by the conflict of emotions which surged up into my head.
I felt a hand upon my shoulder. I started vehemently at the touch from my bitter mood of apprehension, and confronted Miss Grant.
"There can be no objection to my coming on deck, Mr. Musgrave t " she exclaimed.
"None," I answered; "the men have promised not to trouble either of us. We must trust them—we cannot do otherwise."
She looked at me earnestly. I don't doubt I was worn and haggard enough to account for her concerned, inquiring gaze. She was very pale, but I instantly noticed an expression of decision in her face as of a mind that has formed a resolution from which nothing is to divert it. Her black eyes looked at me with a full, steadfast shining. It was manifest that the true spirit of this girl, which had been bowed a little as I had last night remarked, had recovered its old natural, erect, heroic posture.
"Let us walk," she said. "It cannot matter that the men should see us together conversing. They must know we do so below when out of sight of them."
"A moment," I exclaimed. "Mr. Mole !" I sung out, "get topmast and topgallant studding-sails aloft. Crowd on all canvas. You want heels, as we do."
"Ay, ay, sir!" He re-echoed my orders promptly. Had he been mate throughout he could not have fitted the post more intelligently, nor exhibited shrewder perception of the dignity of the berth he filled in his manner of calling to the men, that was as good as saying to them, "I'm still your shipmate, lads; but don't forget that I'm mister also!"
Miss Grant and 1 fell to pacing the weather - deck, speaking low, and taking care to slew round for our forward pace whilst the fellow at the helm was still a little way off. We spoke of the disappearance of Broadwater. She did not doubt with me that he had been murdered, and that the whole of the crew were acquainted with the deed. I said to her: "But glance at them, Miss Grant; see how nimbly they run about; hear the cheeriness in their voices, and the occasional laugh! It is hard to believe they can be conscious that a second dreadful crime was committed in this ship in the dark hours of the morning."
"You will find it was the deed of one man," she answered; "the others feel themselves guiltless, and are happy because they are free. But who is the criminal 1 Is it Charles, do you think t"
"I dare not think," I exclaimed. "As it is, he must regard us as witnesses to his murder of the mate. His dread of Broadwater may be extended to us for the same reason. I am infinitely bothered — infinitely, bothered," I exclaimed, with an involuntary clenching of my fist to a fit of exasperation that came to me with the thought of the horrible muddle we were in, and my helplessness and my inability to perceive the least gleam of light upon the heavy surrounding gloom.
She looked at me with a light smile, and said with a sort of peremptoriness, fascinating for its spirit and kindness:
"If / can bo cool, you must be so. Mr. Musgrave, I really do not feel the least bit afraid; certainly I have no fear for our lives. The hearts in those men are not black; they are not pirates; at least they are not pirates yet! They are wretched human creatures, who have been driven to this by ill-treatment, and now that the captain is gone they will stay their hands. Indeed, I have no fear. The future, to be sure, is a gloomy problem, but have not we courage enough between us to wait until it is solved 1" She continued to look at me, preserving her light smile.
"We should change places," said I, feeling a trifle of colour in my cheeks; "you have twenty-fold my heart. Yet I should feel less worried, I believe, if I were alone here. It is my duty to see you safely to Rio—I embarked for no other purpose."
"But supposing / were alone!" said she.
"Ha!" I exclaimed; "and yet I don't know. I believe your nature would top the whole difficulty as a sea-bird tops a surge big enough to founder a line-of-battle ship. Indeed the mere circumstance of your being alone might win you more consideration from the sailors than they would show you with a male companion to look after you."
"Well, Mr. Musgrave," said she, and her voice still maintained its character of peremptoriness that rendered it, to my ear at all events, not a little engaging by the quality of half-conscious coquetry that I found in it, "bemoaning our position will not help it. I am certain you will yet discharge the obligation you generously, most generously, undertook; and how Alexander will thank you when he hears of our adventures, and of your heavy anxieties, my heart tells me."
She laid her hand upon her breast as she spoke; the Spanish blood in her indeed was confessed in many of her gestures. And though her accent was entirely English, yet perhaps in her choice of words you missed the ease and simplicity you would expect in a girl whose blood and lifelong surroundings were purely British. "A plague on Alexander !" thought I. It had come, somehow or other, to my never being able to hear her mention his name without a feeling in me that she was a bit maladroit in referring to it. "A plague on him!" I repeated to myself, spite of the glowing glance she shot at me through the fringes of her white lids, as if to an instant's curiosity as to what was passing in my mind.
"Under Heaven, Miss Grant," I answered, "I hope indeed to be able to discharge my obligation, though 'tis a word that I don't like—indeed, it is quite the other way. But," said I, with a touch of impatience, "this is no time for ceremonies of speech. We are talking of Rio and Alexander; and here, confound it! are we heading away on a crow's course for Cuba."
"Why do the men want to go to Cuba 1 " she asked.
"I may find out," I answered; "at present I have not the least idea. The West Indies, to be sure, suggest piracy; but that dream is gone. If the cross-bones and skull be not hauled down and stowed away, they are scarce now flying half-mast high. No! yonder livelies will not put this ship to any felonious use! I am to give them notice when we are within a day's sail of the island. That sounds queer ■—■ they don't name a port."
"It will all come right, Mr. Musgrave," she exclaimed.
I viewed her with an admiration I could not disguise. It was not only the challenge of her pale, resolved beauty just then; it was the high courage, giving her faith in the future, that won my eyes to her with an expression in them that must have conveyed more than the message I intended; for her own gaze drooped to it on a sudden, and went away seawards with the merest flutter of a smile upon her lips.
WE ABE SPOKEN.
Presently the men had packed studding-sails to the royal yards upon the brig. But I took notice that the crew did not intend to wash the decks down; and that I might satisfy myself on a head or two concerning the ship's discipline, and what was expected of me, I called to Mole, having Miss Grant still at my side. There was little of the cut-throat in the appearance of the seaman as he approached and stood before us, civil, but with a determined manner running through his respectfulness. He was indeed as fine a specimen of an English sailor as one could wish to see; tall, muscular, well shaped, and with the grace begotten by years of rolling decks in every posture and movement; eyes full of sensibility, a cheek burnt by many months of high suns, and handsome features which seemed the manlier for the shaggy cast his thick, plentiful hair gave them.
"Mr. Mole," said I, " I am captain by the wish and consent of the crew, but have no ambition to venture a step further than they require me to walk. I therefore propose to give no orders until I have ascertained their views. They will work the ship, of course, brace the yards about to the wind, and make and shorten sail, and the like. And what more V'
"Nothing more, sir," he answered, promptly. So I might have guessed I "There'll be no money to take up, Mr. Musgrave," he continued, "and he's a good dog that'll work for a bare bone."
"There'd be money enough to earn though," said I, "should you feel disposed to turn to and make a salvage job of this business. Here's a brig without a commander, with her hold full of mixed commodities—"
He raised his hand with a glance forward. "No, sir. All hands is agreed. If we could stick the bloom