“Take the woman below,” he snapped, his cruel teeth gleaming. “By God! she ’ll get her lesson. Here, Louis, you damned nigger, don’t you hear me? Lock her in, and bring me the key. I ’ll handle this sniveling thief first. So you could n’t run a boat, hey! Not so easy as it looked, was it, you dog. Thought we ’d be gone this morning, didn’t you? You ’ll find I ’m not quite as easy as all that. Now, by God! you ’ll take your medicine!”
I still stood motionless, my back to the rail, letting him rave, but watching every movement. I knew the girl’s eyes were on my face, although I did not venture to glance toward her, not even when the negro guided her aft through the ring of seamen. Yet this was the one thing I was waiting for, my heart beating fiercely, in fear lest the Lieutenant might give signal for attack too soon. I remember the faces about me, fierce, scowling faces, of men wild to lay hold upon me at the first word of command, yet it was Henley I looked at, measuring the distance between us, and watching the revolver in his hand. What did he mean to do? Kill me, or give me over into the hands of those merciless devils? All I could read in his eyes was hatred, exultation, consciousness of power. Suddenly he laughed, a sneering, cynical laugh, as though he thought me cringing before him in terror. The man judged me by himself, and believed me helpless.
“Hard luck, Craig—hey!” he began tauntingly. “Played with the wrong man, did n’t you. Now I ’ve got the girl just as I want her, and as for you—Lord! but I ’ll keep you to play with all the way to Honduras. It will be a pleasant voyage, my friend. Here, Masters, you and Peters stand by. Now, you robber, give me those papers.”
I handed them out, watching closely. Peters stood at my right, one hand on my arm; the other fellow must have been behind me. Henley grasped the envelope, opening the flap to be sure of its contents. The movement caused him to lower the revolver, and avert his gaze, for just an instant. With one motion I flung Peters aside, and jammed a clinched fist into the Captain’s face.
Masters must have struck me at almost the same instant my fist landed on Henley, for we went down together, his revolver discharging, the flying bullet gouging my shoulder, burning the flesh like a red-hot wire. Yet I grappled him even as we crashed to the deck, but the fellow lay stunned, motionless as a dead man. Everything happened quicker than I can tell it; with such rapidity, indeed, that not a hand touched me. I could barely struggle up on one knee, dazed still by the stroke which had floored me, and glance about, when the blue-jackets came tumbling over the rail, and leaped at the astounded crew of the Sea Gull. It was a swift, short fight, the assailants having every advantage. I saw the Lieutenant, bare-handed,