“He thought then, Sir,” I went on, “that you might wish to put into the nearest port; but I told him that I didn’t think you could, even if you wanted to.”
“How’s that?” he asked, profoundly interested.
“Well, Sir,” I replied. “If we’re unable to see other vessels, we shouldn’t be able to see the land. You’d be piling the ship up, without ever seeing where you were putting her.”
This view of the matter, affected the Old Man in an extraordinary manner; as it did, I believe, the Second Mate. And neither spoke for a moment. Then the Skipper burst out.
“By Gad! Jessop,” he said. “If you’re right, the Lord have mercy on us.”
He thought for a couple of seconds. Then he spoke again, and I could see that he was pretty well twisted up:
“My God!... if you’re right!”
The Second Mate spoke.
“The men mustn’t know, Sir,” he warned him. “It’d be a mess if they did!”
“Yes,” said the Old Man.
He spoke to me.
“Remember that, Jessop,” he said. “Whatever you do, don’t go yarning about this, forrard.”
“No, Sir,” I replied.
“And you too, boy,” said the Skipper. “Keep your tongue between your teeth. We’re in a bad enough mess, without your making it worse. Do you hear?”
“Yes, Sir,” answered Tammy.
The Old Man turned to me again.
“These things, or creatures that you say come out of the sea,” he said. “You’ve never seen them, except after nightfall?” he asked.
“No, Sir,” I replied. “Never.”
He turned to the Second Mate.
“So far as I can make out, Mr. Tulipson,” he remarked, “the danger seems to be only at night.”
“It’s always been at night, Sir,” the Second answered.
The Old Man nodded.
“Have you anything to propose, Mr. Tulipson?” he asked.
“Well, Sir,” replied the Second Mate. “I think you ought to have her snugged down every night, before dark!”
He spoke with considerable emphasis. Then he glanced aloft, and jerked his head in the direction of the unfurled t’gallants.
“It’s a damned good thing, Sir,” he said, “that it didn’t come on to blow any harder.”
The Old Man nodded again.
“Yes,” he remarked. “We shall have to do it; but God knows when we’ll get home!”
“Better late than not at all,” I heard the Second mutter, under his breath.
Out loud, he said:
“And the lights, Sir?”
“Yes,” said the Old Man. “I will have lamps in the rigging every night, after dark.”
“Very good, Sir,” assented the Second. Then he turned to us.
“It’s getting daylight, Jessop,” he remarked, with a glance at the sky. “You’d better take Tammy with you, and shove those lamps back again into the locker.”
“i, i, Sir,” I said, and went down off the poop with Tammy.