Two Years Before the Mast eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 502 pages of information about Two Years Before the Mast.

CHAPTER XV

For several days the captain seemed very much out of humor.  Nothing went right, or fast enough for him.  He quarrelled with the cook, and threatened to flog him for throwing wood on deck, and had a dispute with the mate about reeving a Spanish burton; the mate saying that he was right, and had been taught how to do it by a man who was a sailor!  This the captain took in dudgeon, and they were at swords’ points at once.  But his displeasure was chiefly turned against a large, heavy-moulded fellow from the Middle States, who was called Sam.  This man hesitated in his speech, was rather slow in his motions, and was only a tolerably good sailor, but usually seemed to do his best; yet the captain took a dislike to him, thought he was surly and lazy, and ``if you once give a dog a bad name,’’—­ as the sailor-phrase is,—­ ``he may as well jump overboard.’’ The captain found fault with everything this man did, and hazed him for dropping a marline-spike from the main-yard, where he was at work.  This, of course, was an accident, but it was set down against him.  The captain was on board all day Friday, and everything went on hard and disagreeably. ``The more you drive a man, the less he will do,’’ was as true with us as with any other people.  We worked late Friday night, and were turned-to early Saturday morning.  About ten o’clock the captain ordered our new officer, Russell, who by this time had become thoroughly disliked by all the crew, to get the gig ready to take him ashore.  John, the Swede, was sitting in the boat alongside, and Mr. Russell and I were standing by the main hatchway, waiting for the captain, who was down in the hold, where the crew were at work, when we heard his voice raised in violent dispute with somebody, whether it was with the mate or one of the crew I could not tell, and then came blows and scuffling.  I ran to the side and beckoned to John, who came aboard, and we leaned down the hatchway, and though we could see no one, yet we knew that the captain had the advantage, for his voice was loud and clear:—­

``You see your condition!  You see your condition!  Will you ever give me any more of your jaw?’’ No answer; and then came wrestling and heaving, as though the man was trying to turn him. ``You may as well keep still, for I have got you,’’ said the captain.  Then came the question, ``Will you ever give me any more of your jaw?’’

``I never gave you any, sir,’’ said Sam; for it was his voice that we heard, though low and half choked.

``That’s not what I ask you.  Will you ever be impudent to me again?’’

``I never have been, sir,’’ said Sam.

``Answer my question, or I’ll make a spread eagle of you!  I’ll flog you, by G—–­d.’’

``I’m no negro slave,’’ said Sam.

``Then I’ll make you one,’’ said the captain; and he came to the hatchway, and sprang on deck, threw off his coat, and, rolling up his sleeves, called out to the mate:  ``Seize that man up, Mr. Amerzene!  Seize him up!  Make a spread eagle of him!  I’ll teach you all who is master aboard!’’

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Two Years Before the Mast from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.