In which Mr Vanslyperken finds great cause of vexation and satisfaction.
In the meanwhile Mr Vanslyperken was anything but comfortable in his mind. That Corporal Van Spitter should assert that he saw the devil at his shoulder, was a matter of no small annoyance any way; for either the devil was at his shoulder or he was not. If he was, why then it was evident that in consequence of his having attempted murder, and having betrayed his country for money, the devil considered him as his own, and this Mr Vanslyperken did not approve of; for, like many others in this world, he wished to commit every crime, and go to heaven after all. Mr Vanslyperken was superstitious and cowardly, and he did believe that such a thing was possible; and when he canvassed it in his mind, he trembled, and looked over his shoulder.
But Corporal Van Spitter might have asserted it only to frighten him. It was possible—but here again was a difficulty: the corporal had been his faithful confidant for so long a while, and to suppose this, would be to suppose that the corporal was a traitor to him, and that, upon no grounds which Vanslyperken could conjecture, he had turned false: this was impossible—Mr Vanslyperken would not credit it; so there he stuck, like a man between the horns of a dilemma, not knowing what to do; for Mr Vanslyperken resolved, had the devil really been there, to have repented immediately, and have led a new life; but if the devil had not been there, Mr Vanslyperken did not perceive any cause for such an immediate hurry.
At last, an idea presented itself to Mr Vanslyperken’s mind, which afforded him great comfort, which was, that the corporal had suffered so much from his boat adventures—for the corporal had made the most of his sufferings—that he was a little affected in his mind, and had thought that he had seen something. “It must have been so,” said Mr Vanslyperken, who fortified the idea with a glass of scheedam, and then went to bed.
Now, it so happened, that at the very time that Mr Vanslyperken was arguing all this in his brain, Corporal Van Spitter was also cogitating how he should get out of his scrape; for the Corporal, although not very bright, had much of the cunning of little minds, and he felt the necessity of lulling the suspicions of the lieutenant. To conceal his astonishment and fear at the appearance of the dog, he had libelled Mr Vanslyperken, who would not easily forgive, and it was the corporal’s interest to continue on the best terms with, and enjoy the confidence of his superior. How was this to be got over? It took the whole of the first watch, and two-thirds of the middle, before the corporal, who lay in his hammock, could hit upon any plan. At last he thought he had succeeded. At daybreak, Corporal Van Spitter entered the cabin of Mr Vanslyperken, who very coolly desired him to tell Short to get all ready for weighing at six o’clock.