THE SPIRIT OF DISCORD
The days which followed my fight with Van Luck were full of anxiety for those who were responsible for the safety of the ship. It was evident that a spirit of discord had begun to show itself among the crew, which threatened a mutiny. Janstins, the pilot, whom we knew to be trustworthy, did not attempt to hide the peril that was brewing in the forecastle.
“Those lubbers for’ard,” he said when Hartog, he, and I sat together one evening in the cabin, “will make trouble if they can. They are a pig-headed lot, and a dozen apiece at the gratings would do them no harm. But while they outnumber us, as they do, three to one, we must avoid a quarrel. Besides, if we got the upper hand, and drove the scum into the sea, we’d be undermanned for the voyage, and unable to weather the first storm that came upon us.”
“What is it they want?” asked Hartog impatiently. “Am I a wizard to conjure gold and jewels out of the wilderness? They knew the chances they took when they set sail, and will have their wages paid in full, whereas I shall receive nothing but abuse, so that in this they are in better case than I, their captain.”
“Granted you are right,” answered Janstins, “yet these dunderheads will not view the matter with such common sense. They believe that gold and jewels are to be found, but we have not the wit to find them.”
“Who has told them this?” demanded Hartog with a frown. “They must have a leader amongst them whom we wot not of. If I find him I’ll send him adrift upon the sea to look for the treasure he speaks of with none to hinder him.”
It was the first time I had seen Hartog so deeply angered, aroused as he was by the rumoured treachery that was being hatched against his command, and when he spoke of the punishment most dreaded by seamen, of being cast adrift in an open boat with three days’ provisions, I knew full well he would not hesitate to inflict this penalty upon whomsoever might be found attempting to undermine his authority.
At these consultations held by the officers in the cabin, I noticed Van Luck was never present. He made an excuse for his absence that, as first officer, his place was on deck when the captain was below. Although this could not be disputed, yet I bethought me he might have found an opportunity to add his voice to our councils had he the inclination to do it. But as yet I had no proof of treachery against Van Luck, and although I suspected him, I was loath to voice my suspicions lest my action might be attributed to malice for his scurvy treatment of me.