“Who’s that coming up below you, Jessop?” he asked.
Before I could, speak, Stubbins answered:
“It’s me, Sir, an’ Plummer an’ Jaskett.”
“Who the devil told you to come now? Go straight down, the lot of you!”
“We’re comin’ hup ter keep you company, Sir,” was his reply.
At that, I was confident of a burst of temper from the Second; and yet, for the second time within a couple of minutes I was wrong. Instead of cursing Stubbins, he, after a moment’s pause, went on up the rigging, without another word, and the rest of us followed. We reached the royal, and made short work of it; indeed, there were sufficient of us to have eaten it. When we had finished, I noticed that the Second Mate remained on the yard until we were all in the rigging. Evidently, he had determined to take a full share of any risk there might be; but I took care to keep pretty close to him; so as to be on hand if anything happened; yet we reached the deck again, without anything having occurred. I have said, without anything having occurred; but I am not really correct in this; for, as the Second Mate came down over the crosstrees, he gave a short, abrupt cry.
“Anything wrong, Sir?” I asked.
“No—o!” he said. “Nothing! I banged my knee.”
And yet now, I believe he was lying. For, that same watch, I was to hear men giving just such cries; but, God knows, they had reason enough.
Hands That Plucked
Directly we reached the deck, the Second Mate gave the order:
“Mizzen t’gallant clewlines and buntlines,” and led the way up on to the poop. He went and stood by the haulyards, ready to lower away. As I walked across to the starboard clewline, I saw that the Old Man was on deck, and as I took hold of the rope, I heard him sing out to the Second Mate.
“Call all hands to shorten sail, Mr. Tulipson.”
“Very good, Sir,” the Second Mate replied. Then he raised his voice:
“Go forrard, you, Jessop, and call all hands to shorten sail. You’d better give them a call in the bosun’s place, as you go.”
“i, i, Sir,” I sung out, and hurried off.
As I went, I heard him tell Tammy to go down and call the Mate.
Reaching the fo’cas’le, I put my head in through the starboard doorway, and found some of the men beginning to turn-in.
“It’s all hands on deck, shorten sail,” I sung out.
I stepped inside.
“Just wot I said,” grumbled one of the men.
“They don’t damn well think we’re goin’ aloft to-night, after what’s happened?” asked another.
“We’ve been up to the main royal,” I answered. “The Second Mate went with us.”
“Wot?” said the first man. “Ther Second Mate hisself?”
“Yes,” I replied. “The whole blooming watch went up.”
“An’ wot ’appened?” he asked.