“My God! O, my God!” he muttered, and began to walk slowly aft.
He had cause enough for groaning. There were three dead, and Stubbins had gone utterly and completely. We never saw him again.
A few minutes later, the Second Mate came forrard again. I was still standing near the rigging, holding the lantern, in an aimless sort of way.
“That you, Plummer?” he asked.
“No, Sir,” I said. “It’s Jessop.”
“Where’s Plummer, then?” he inquired.
“I don’t know, Sir,” I answered. “I expect he’s gone forrard. Shall I go and tell him you want him?”
“No, there’s no need,” he said. “Tie your lamp up in the rigging—on the sheerpole there. Then go and get his, and shove it up on the starboard side. After that you’d better go aft and give the two ’prentices a hand in the lamp locker.”
“i, i, Sir,” I replied, and proceeded to do as he directed. After I had got the light from Plummer, and lashed it up to the starboard sherpole, I hurried aft. I found Tammy and the other ’prentice in our watch, busy in the locker, lighting lamps.
“What are we doing?” I asked.
“The Old Man’s given orders to lash all the spare lamps we can find, in the rigging, so as to have the decks light,” said Tammy. “And a damned good job too!”
He handed me a couple of the lamps, and took two himself.
“Come on,” he said, and stepped out on deck. “We’ll fix these in the main rigging, and then I want to talk to you.”
“What about the mizzen?” I inquired.
“Oh,” he replied. “He” (meaning the other ’prentice) “will see to that. Anyway, it’ll be daylight directly.”
We shoved the lamps up on the sherpoles—two on each side. Then he came across to me.
“Look here, Jessop!” he said, without any hesitation. “You’ll have to jolly well tell the Skipper and the Second Mate all you know about all this.”
“How do you mean?” I asked.
“Why, that it’s something about the ship herself that’s the cause of what’s happened,” he replied. “If you’d only explained to the Second Mate when I told you to, this might never have been!”
“But I don’t know,” I said. “I may be all wrong. It’s only an idea of mine. I’ve no proofs—”
“Proofs!” he cut in with. “Proofs! what about tonight? We’ve had all the proofs ever I want!”
I hesitated before answering him.
“So have I, for that matter,” I said, at length. “What I mean is, I’ve nothing that the Skipper and the Second Mate would consider as proofs. They’d never listen seriously to me.”
“They’d listen fast enough,” he replied. “After what’s happened this watch, they’d listen to anything. Anyway, it’s jolly well your duty to tell them!”
“What could they do, anyway?” I said, despondently. “As things are going, we’ll all be dead before another week is over, at this rate.”