I had no answer to this, and we both fell silent. Singleton was the first to speak:—
“How are you going to get back? The men can sail a course, but who is to lay it out? Turner? No Turner ever knew anything about a ship but what it made for him.”
“Turner is sick. Look here, Singleton, you want to get back as much as we do, or more. Wouldn’t you be willing to lay a course, if you were taken out once a day? Burns is doing it, but he doesn’t pretend to know much about it, and—we have the bodies.”
But he turned ugly again, and refused to help unless he was given his freedom, and that I knew the crew would not agree to.
“You’ll be sick enough before you get back!” he snarled.
THE WHITE LIGHT
With the approach of night our vigilance was doubled. There was no thought of sleep among the crew, and, with the twilight, there was a distinct return of the terror of the morning.
Gathered around the wheel, the crew listened while Jones read evening prayer. Between the two houses, where the deck was roped off, Miss Lee was alone, pacing back and-forward, her head bent, her arms dropped listlessly.
The wind had gone, and the sails hung loose over our heads. I stood by the port rail. Although my back was toward Miss Lee, I was conscious of her every movement; and so I knew when she stooped under the rope and moved lightly toward the starboard rail.
Quick as she was, I was quicker. There was still light enough to see her face as she turned when I called to her:
“Miss Lee You must not leave the rope.”
“I am sorry to seem arbitrary. It is for your own safety.”
I was crossing the deck toward her as I spoke. I knew what she was going to do. I believe, when she saw my face, that she read my knowledge in it. She turned back from the rail and faced me.
“Surely I may go to the rail!”
“It would be unwise, if for no other reason than discipline.”
“Discipline! Are you trying to discipline me?”
“Miss Lee, you do not seem to understand,” I said, as patiently as I could. “Just now I am in charge of the Ella. It does not matter how unfit I am—the fact remains. Nor does it concern me that your brother-in-law owns the ship. I am in charge of it, and, God willing, there will be no more crimes on it. You will go back to the part of the deck that is reserved for you, or you will go below and stay there.”
She flushed with anger, and stood there with her head thrown back, eyeing me with a contempt that cut me to the quick. The next moment she wheeled and, raising her hand, flung toward the rail the key to the storeroom door. I caught her hand—too late.
But fate was on my side, after all. As I stood, still gripping her wrist, the key fell ringing almost at my feet. It had struck one of the lower yard braces. I stooped, and, picking it up, pocketed it.