The skipper’s fury increased with the utterance of every bellowed word. His dark face burned crimson, and his black eyes glowed like coals in the open draught of a stove. His teeth flashed between his snarling lips like a timber-wolf’s fangs. He shook his fist at them, picked up a birch billet, which was a part of the wrecking-gear, and swung it threateningly. About eight of the men and boys, including young Cormick Nolan, Nick Leary and Bill Brennen, stood away from the others, out of line of the skipper’s frantic gestures and bruising words. Some of them were loyal, some simply more afraid of Black Dennis Nolan than of anything else in the world. But fear, after all, is an important element in a certain quality of devotion.
The main party were somewhat shaken. A few of them growled back at the skipper; but not quite loud enough to claim his attention to them in particular. Some eyed him apprehensively, while others broke open the ship’s and passengers’ boxes. They found minted money only in one of the captain’s dispatch-boxes—two small but weighty bags of gold containing about two hundred sovereigns in all. This was the money which the dead captain had been armed with by his owners against harbor-dues, etc. The funds which the passengers must have possessed had doubtless been flung overboard and under along with the unfortunate beings who had clung to them. The sullen, greedy fellows began to count and divide the gold. They were slow, suspicious, grasping. The skipper, having fallen to a glowing silence at last, watched them for a minute or two with a bitter sneer on his face. Then he turned and set out briskly for Chance Along. The loyal and fearful party followed him, most of them with evident reluctance. A few turned their faces continually to gaze at the distributing of the gold and gear. The skipper noted this with a sidelong, covert glance.
“Don’t ye be worryin’, men. Ye’ll have yer fill afore long, so help me Saint Peter!” he exclaimed. “No man who stands by me, an’ knows me for master, goes empty!”
He did not speak another word on the way or so much as look at his followers. He strode along swiftly, thinking hard. He could not blink the fact that the needless deaths of the three men in the cabin of the Royal William had weakened his position seriously. He could not blink the ugly fact that the day’s activities had bred a mutiny—and that the mutiny had not yet been faced and broken. It was still breeding. The poison was still working. In a fit of blind anger and unreasoning disgust he had fed the spirit of rebellion with gold. He had shattered with his foot what he had built with his hands. The work of mastery was all to do over again. He had taught them that his rights were four shares to one—and now he had given them all, thereby destroying a precedent in the establishing of which he had risked his life and robbing himself and his loyal followers at the same