thought I'd let you know, as they'll be cleared away after nine, and my orders are not to serve them again when once they're stowed away for the night. That's the captain's rule."
"All right," said I. Another time I should have gone below and had my glass of grog; but I considered it my best policy to keep clear of Coxon until the temper that had been excited by my unfortunate production of the ship's biscuit was cooled down.
I took some turns along the deck, and shortly after nine one of the lamps in the cuddy was extinguished, and on looking through the skylight I found that the three men had left the table. There was a man pacing to and fro the forecastle, and I could just make out his figure against the stars which gleamed and throbbed right down to the horizon. The rest of the crew had evidently turned in, for I heard no voices, and now that the talking which had been going on in the cuddy no longer vexed the ear with rough accents, a profound silence and peace came down upon the ship. Around me, the anchored vessels gloomed like phantoms; the sea unrolled its dark, unbreathing surface into the visionary distances; nothing sounded from the shore but the murmur of the summer surf upon the shingle. One might have said that the spirit of life had departed from the earth; that nothing lived but the stars, which looked down upon a scene as impalpable and elusive as a dream.
At last uprose the moon. She made her coming apparent by paling the stars in the southern sky, then by projecting a white mist of light over the horizon. Anon her upper limb, red as fire, jetted upwards, and the full orb, vast and feverish as the setting sun, sailed out of the sea, most slowly and solemnly, lifting with her a black mist that belted her like a circle of smoke: this vanished, and by degrees, perceptible to the eye, her colour changed; the red chastened into pearl, her disc grew smaller, and soon she was well above the horizon, shining with a most clear and silvery splendour, and making the sea beneath her lustrous with mild light. But not a breath of air followed her coming. The ships in the Downs caught the new light, and their yards showed like streaks of pearl against the night. The red lights of the Goodwin Sands dwindled before the pure, far-reaching radiance into mere floating sparks of fire. The heavens were cloudless, and the sea a wonderful calm. I might keep watch all night, and still have nothing to report; so, knocking the ashes out of my pipe, I descended the poop-ladder and entered my cabin.
I had slung a cot, although there was a good mahogany bunk in the cabin. No sensible person would sleep in a bunk at sea when he could swing in a hammock or cot. Suppose the bunk is athwart-ship: when the vessel goes about you must shift your pillow; and very often she will go about in your watch below and catch you asleep, so that when you wake you find your feet are in the air, and all the blood in your body in your head. When I first went to sea I slept in a 'thwartship bunk. The ship was taken aback one night when I was asleep, and they came and roared, "All hands shorten sail!" down the booby hatch. I heard the cry and tried to get out of my bed, but my head was jammed to leeward by the weight of my body, and I could not move. Had the ship foundered, I should have gone to the bottom, in bed, helpless. Always after that I slept in a hammock.
The watch on deck had orders to call the captain if a change of wind came; also I knew that the pilot would be up, sniffing about, off and on, through the night: so I turned in properly and slept soundly until two; when, waking up, I drew on my small clothes and went on deck, where I found Duckling mousing about in the moonshine in a pair of yellow flannel drawers, he having, like myself, come up to see if any wind was stirring. He looked like a new kind of monkey in his tight white rig and immense head of hair. "No wind, no wind," he muttered, in a sleepy grumble, and then went below with a run, nearly tumbling, in fact, head over heels down the companion-ladder.
I took a turn forward to see if the riding lights burned well and the man on the look-out was awake. The decks were wet with dew, and the moon was now hanging over the South Foreland. The sky was still cloudless, and not a breath of air to be felt. This being the case, I went back to my cot.
When I next awoke I found my cot violently swinging. I thought for the moment that we were under way and in a heavy sea; but on looking over I saw Mr. Duckling, who exclaimed, "Out with you, Mr. Royle! There's a good breeze from the east'ards. Look alive and call the boatswain to pipe all hands."
Hearing this, I was wide awake at once, and in a few minutes was making my way to the boatswain's cabin, a deck-house on the port side against the forecastle. He and the carpenter were fast asleep in bunks placed one over the other. I laid hold of the boatswain's leg, which hung over the bunk—both he and the carpenter had turned in "all standing," as they say at sea—and shook it. His great brown hairy face came out of the bolster in which it was buried; he then threw over his other leg and sat upright.
"All hands, sir?"
"Yes; look sharp, bo'sun."
He was about to speak, but stopped short and said, "Ay, ay, sir;" whereupon I hurried aft.
It was twenty minutes past five by the clock in the cuddy. The sun had been risen half an hour, and was already warming the decks. But there was a fine breeze—not from the eastward, as Duckling had said, but well to the northward of east—which brought ripe, fresh morning smells from the land with it, and made the water run in little leaps of foam against the ship's side.
Captain Coxon and the pilot were both on the poop, and as I came up the former called out—
"Is the boatswain awake yet?"
"Yes, sir," I answered, and dived into my cabin to finish dressing. I heard the boatswain's pipe sound, followed by the roar of his voice summoning the hands to weigh anchor. My station was on the forecastle, and thither I went. But none of the hands had emerged as yet, the only man seen being the fellow on the look-out. All about us the outward-bound vessels were taking advantage of the wind: some of them were already standing away, others were sheeting home their canvas; the clanking of the windlasses was incessant, and several Deal boats were driving under their lugs among the shipping.
"Mr. Royle," cried out the captain, "jump below, will you, and see what those fellows are about."
I went to the fore-scuttle and peered into it, bawling, "Below there!"
"There's no use singing out," said a voice; "we don't mean to get the ship under way until you give us something fit to eat."
"Who was that who spoke?" I called. "Show yourself, my man."
A fellow came and stood under the fore-scuttle, and looking up, said in a bold, defiant way—
"I spoke—'Bill Marling, able seaman.'"
"Am I to tell the captain that you refuse to turn to?"
"Ay, and tell him we'd rather have six months of chokee than one mouthful of his damned provisions," he answered; and immediately a lot of voices took up the theme, and as I left the forecastle to deliver the message, I heard the men cursing and abusing us all violently, the foreigners particularly—that is, the Portuguese and a Frenchman, who was half a negro—swearing in the worst English words and worst English pronunciation, shrilly and fiercely.
Coxon pretty well knew what