As mentioned before, Jack Lesher was a drinking man, and as the weather grew warmer the mate increased his potions until there was scarcely a day when he was thoroughly sober. Captain Blossom remonstrated with him, but this did little good.
“I’m attending to my duties,” said Lesher. “And if I do that you can’t expect more from me.”
“I thought I hired a man that was sober,” said Captain Blossom. “I won’t place my vessel in charge of a man who gets drunk.”
Yet he was not willing to do the mate’s work, or put that work onto others, so Jack Lesher had to take his turn on deck, no matter in what condition.
“I must say I don’t like that first mate at all,” said Tom to Sam. “He is very friendly with Baxter.”
“I have noticed that,” replied the youngest Rover. “Such a friendship doesn’t count in the mate’s favor.”
“Last night he was thoroughly drunk, and wasn’t fit to command.”
“Well, that is Captain Blossom’s lookout. The captain can’t be on deck all of the time.”
Two nights after this talk Jack Lesher was again in command of the ship, Captain Blossom having retired after an unusually hard day.
It was hot and dark, and the air betokened a storm. The man at the wheel was following a course set by the captain, and the sailors whose watch was on deck lay around taking it as easy as they could.
The mate had been drinking but little in the afternoon, but before coming on deck he took several draughts of rum. He was in a partiallarly bad humor and ready to find fault with anybody or anything.
Some of the sails had been reefed, and these he ordered shaken out, although there was a stiff breeze blowing. Then he approached the man at the wheel and asked for the course.
“Southwest by south,” was the answer.
“That aint right,” growled the mate. “It should be south by west.”
“The captain gave it to me southwest by south,” answered the man.
“Don’t talk back to me!” roared Jack Lesher. “I know the course as well as the captain. Make it south by west, or I’ll flog you for disobeying orders.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” answered the man at the wheel, and the course was changed, for the sailor stood greatly in fear of the mate. Then the mate sent below for another drink of rum.
ANOTHER ACCIDENT AT SEA
It was four hours later, and Captain Blossom was just preparing to come on deck, when there, came a fearful shock which threw the Golden Wave back and over on her side.
“We have struck! We are on the rocks!” came a shrill cry from the deck, and immediately there was an uproar.
The Rover boys were thrown to the floor from their berths, and it was several seconds before they could realize what had happened.
“We have struck something, that is sure!” gasped Sam.