“Sir, I am not a coward but I know that this will happen, for that spirit which signs itself Skoll never tells a lie. I did try to give the captain a hint to stop at Apia, but he had been drinking and openly cursed me and called me a sneaking cheat. So I am going to run away, of which I am very much ashamed. But I do not wish to be drowned yet as there is a girl whom I want to marry, and my mother I support. You will be safe and I hope you will not think too badly of me.—Jacob Jacobsen.
“P.S.—It is an awful thing to know the future. Never try to learn that.”
I gave this letter to Bastin and Bickley to read and asked them what they thought of it.
“Coincidence,” said Bickley. “The man is a weak-minded idiot and heard in Samoa that they expected a hurricane.”
“I think,” chimed in Bastin, “that the devil knows how to look after his own at any rate for a little while. I dare say it would have been much better for him to be drowned.”
“At least he is a deserter and failed in his duty. I never wish to hear of him again,” I said.
As a matter of fact I never have. But the incident remains quite unexplained either by Bickley or Bastin.
To our shame we had a very pleasant supper that night off the grilled fish, which was excellent, and some tinned meat. I say to our shame, in a sense, for on our companions the sharks were supping and by rights we should have been sunk in woe. I suppose that the sense of our own escape intoxicated us. Also, notwithstanding his joviality, none of us had cared much for the captain, and his policy had been to keep us somewhat apart from the crew, of whom therefore we knew but little. It is true that Bastin held services on Sundays, for such as would attend, and Bickley had doctored a few of them for minor ailments, but there, except for a little casual conversation, our intercourse began and ended.
Now the sad fact is that it is hard to be overwhelmed with grief for those with whom we are not intimate. We were very sorry and that is all that can be said, except that Bastin, being High Church, announced in a matter-of-fact way that he meant to put up some petitions for the welfare of their souls. To this Bickley retorted that from what he had seen of their bodies he was sure they needed them.
Yes, it was a pleasant supper, not made less so by a bottle of champagne which Bickley and I shared. Bastin stuck to his tea, not because he did not like champagne, but because, as he explained, having now come in contact with the heathen it would never do for him to set them an example in the use of spirituous liquors.
“However much we may differ, Bastin, I respect you for that sentiment,” commented Bickley.
“I don’t know why you should,” answered Bastin; “but if so, you might follow my example.”