“Not if they are in opposition to the captain’s orders,” replied Scraggs, firmly, but in a more respectful tone; for in proportion as he became more mutinous, he felt that he could afford to become more deferential. “The captain’s last orders to you were to remain where you are; I heard him give them, and I do not feel it my duty to disobey him at your bidding. You’ll find, too, that the crew are of my way of thinking.”
Manton’s face flushed crimson, and, for a moment, he felt inclined to seize a handspike and fell the refractory second mate therewith; but the looks of a few of the men who were standing by and had overheard the conversation convinced him that a violent course of procedure would do him injury. Swallowing his passion, therefore, as he best could, he said:
“Come, Mr. Scraggs, I did not expect that you would set a mutinous example to the men; and if it were not that you do so out of respect for the supposed orders of the captain, I would put you in irons at once.”
Scraggs smiled sarcastically at this threat, but made no reply, and the mate continued:
“The captain did indeed order me to remain where we are; but I have since discovered that the black dogs have attacked the Christian settlement, as it is called, and you know as well as I do that Gascoyne would not let slip the chance to pitch into the undefended village of the niggers, and pay them off for the mischief they have done to us more than once. At any rate, I mean to go round and blow down their log huts with Long Tom; so you can go ashore if you don’t like the work.”
Manton knew well, when he made this allusion to mischief formerly done to the crew of the Foam, that he touched a rankling sore in the breast of Scraggs, who in a skirmish with the natives some time before had lost an eye; and the idea of revenging himself on the defenseless women and children of his enemies was so congenial to the mind of the second mate, that his objections to act willingly under Manton’s orders were at once removed.
“Ha!” said he, commencing to pace to and fro on the quarter-deck with his superior officer, while the men made the necessary preparations for the intended assault, “that alters the case, Mr. Manton. I don’t think, however, that Gascoyne would have taken advantage of the chance to give the brutes what they deserve; for I must say he does seem to be unaccountably chicken-hearted. Perhaps it’s as well that he’s out of the way. Do you happen to know where he is, or what he’s doing?”
“Not I. No doubt he is playing some sly game with this British cruiser, and I dare say he may be lending a hand to the settlers; for he’s got some strange interests to look after there, you know” (here both men laughed), “and I shouldn’t wonder if he was beforehand with us in pitching into the niggers. He is always ready enough to fight in self-defense, though we can never get him screwed up to the assaulting point.”