“If ye be afeard o’ her, ye white-livered swile, what d’ye want me to do wid her?”
“T’row her overboard! Heave her into the sea!” “Aye, t’row her overboard. She bes the devil hisself! T’ree good lads bes kilt dead by her already. T’row her overboard!”
“There bain’t a man amongst ye wid the heart o’ a white-coat,” returned the skipper. “Afeared o’ a poor drownded wench, be ye?”
This taunt was received in sullen silence. The skipper stood firm on the listed deck, his feet set well apart and his shoulders squared, and leered up at them. Then, stooping forward quickly, he plucked the pendants from those bloodless ears, and set the body rolling into the starboard scuppers and overboard to the frothing surf and slobbering rocks. From the cliff a cry as of mingled relief and dismay rang down to him. He moved forward and swarmed the foremast to the cross-trees. There he paused for a few moments to glance across. He saw that Bill Brennen, Nick Leary, his brother Cormick and several of the men whom he had rescued from the flooded cabin had clustered around the shore-end of the hawser. He saw that they feared treachery. He made his way across, cool, fearless, with a dangerous smile on his lips.
THE SKIPPER STRUGGLES AGAINST SUPERSTITION
“She lays snug enough. We’ll break out the freight, to-morrow,” said the skipper.
“Aye, skipper, aye,” returned Bill Brennen, with an unsuccessful attempt to put some heartiness into his tones; but the others did not say a word. They made litters for the dead and wounded, gathered up the spoils of the cabins, and set off sullenly for Chance Along. The skipper stood to one side and watched them from under lowering brows. At the first stroke of misfortune they were sulking and snarling at him like a pack of wolf-dogs. They evidently expected a boat-load of gold from every wreck, and no casualties. He despised and hated them. He hurried after them and called a halt. He ordered them to break open the ship’s boxes. They obeyed him in sullen wonder.
“If ye find any gold,” he said, “count it an’ divide it amongst ye. An’ the same wid the rest o’ the gear. An’ here bes somethin’ more for ye!” He tossed the purse and the earrings to them. “Take ’em. Keep ’em. I take no shares wid a crew like ye—not this time, anyhow, ye cowardly, unthankful, treacherous swabs! Aye, count the gold, damn ye! an’ stow it away in yer pockets. I bes makin’ rich men o’ ye—an’ at a turn o’ bad luck ye all be ready to knife me. D’ye think I kilt them t’ree dead fools? Nay, they kilt themselves wid fear of a poor drownded woman! T’ree more would ha’ bin stunned and drownded but for me. Holy saints above! I bes minded to leave ye to fish an’ starve—all o’ ye save them as has stood to me like men an’ them o’ me own blood—an’ go to another harbor. Ye white-livered pack o’ wolf-breed huskies! Ye cowardly, snarlin’, treacherous divils. Take yer money. I gives it to ye. Go home an’ feed on the good grub I gives to ye an’ drink the liquor ye’d never have the wits nor the courage to salve but for me! Go home wid ye, out o’ my sight, or maybe I’ll forgit the flabby-hearted swabs ye be an’ give ye a taste o’ me bat!”