awkwardness of the men refusing work when the breeze was so good.
"True," said I; "but I think you'll find that the magistrates will give it in their favour. There's some mistake about the ship's stores. Such bread as the men have had served out to them ought never to have been put on board, and the steward has owned to me that it's all alike."
"The captain don't intend to let it come before the magistrates," answered the pilot with a wink, and pulling his pipe from his mouth to inspect the bowl. "He wants to be off, and means to telegraph for another crew and turn those fellows yonder adrift."
"Won't he ship some better provisions?"
"I don't know, sir. Preehaps he's satisfied that the provisions is good enough for the men, and preehaps he isn't. Leastways he'll not be persuaded contrarily to his belief."
"So, then, the police are to have nothing to do with this matter, and the stores will be retained for another crew?"
"That's as it may be."
"There will be a mutiny before we get to Valparaiso."
"Something 'll happen, I dare say."
I not only considered the captain's behaviour in this matter bad morally, but extremely impolitic. His motives were plain enough. The stores had been shipped as a cheap lot for the men to eat; and I dare say the understanding between Coxon and the owners was that the stores should not be changed. This view would account for his going on shore to telegraph for a new crew, since sending the old crew about their business would promise a cheaper issue than signalling for the police and bringing the offenders before the magistrates, and causing the vessel to be detained while inquiries were made. But that he would be imperilling the safety of his vessel by shipping a fresh crew without exchanging the bad stores for good was quite certain, and I wondered that so old a sailor as he should be such a fool as not to foresee some disastrous end to his own or his owners' contemptible cheese-paring policy.
However, I had not so good an opinion of the pilot's taciturnity as to make him my confidant in these thoughts; we talked on other matters for a few minutes and he then went below, and after a while, on passing the skylight, I saw him stretched on one of the cuddy benches sound asleep.
The Downs now presented a very different appearance from what they had exhibited an hour before. There were not above four vessels at anchor, and of those which had filled and stood away scarce half a dozen were in sight. These were some lumbering old brigs with a barque among them, with the water almost level with their decks; picturesque enough, however, in the glorious morning light, as they went washing solemnly away, showing their square sterns to the wind. A prettier sight was a fine schooner yacht coming up fast from the southward, with her bow close to the wind; and over to the eastward the sea was alive with smacks, their sails shining like copper, standing apparently for the North Sea.
The land all about Walmer was of an exquisite soft green, and in the breezy summer light Deal looked the quaintest, snuggest little town in the world.
A little after eight the steward called me down to breakfast, where I found the pilot impatiently sniffing an atmosphere charged with the aroma of broiled ham and strong coffee. I own, as I helped myself to a rasher and contrasted the good provisions with which the cuddy table was furnished with the bad food served to the men, that I was weak enough to sympathize very cordially with the poor fellows. The steward told me that not a man among them had broken his fast; this he had been told by the cook, who added that the men would rather starve than eat the biscuit that had been served out to them. Such was their way of showing themselves wronged; and the steward declared that he did not half like bringing our breakfast from the galley, for the men, when they smelt the ham and saw him going aft with a tin of hot rolls, became so forcible in their language that he every moment, during his walk along the main-deck, expected to feel himself seized behind and pitched overboard.
"It's the old story, sir," said the pilot, who was making an immense breakfast, "and it's true enough what Mr. Duckling said last night, which I thought uncommonly good. They ship sailors out of places where there's nothing to be seen but rags and rum—rum and rags, sir; they give 'em a good cabin to live in, pounds sterling a month, grog every day at eight bells, plenty of good livin', considering what they was, where they come from, and what they desarves: and what do they do but turn up their noses at food which they'd crawl upon their knees to get in their kennels ashore, and swear that they won't do ne'er a stroke of work unless they're bribed by the very best of everything. What do they want?—lobsters for breakfast, and wenison and plum-duff for dinner, and chops and tamater sauce for supper? It's the ruination of owners, sir, are these here new-fangled ideas; and I don't say—mind, I don't say that it don't go agin pilots as a body. A pilot can't do his dooty as he ought when he's got such crews as sarve nowadays to order about. Here am I stuck here, with a job that I knows of waitin' and waitin' for me at Gravesend. And all because this blessed ship's company wants wenison and plum-duff for dinner!"
He helped himself to a large slice of broiled ham and devoured it with sullen energy.
I could have said a word for the men, but guessed that my remarks would be repeated to the skipper; and since I could not benefit them, there was no use in injuring myself.
After breakfast I went upon deck, and saw a Deal boat making for the ship. She came along in slashing style, under her broad lug—what splendid boats those Deal luggers are, and how superbly the fellows handle them!—and in a short time was near enough to enable me to see that she towed our quarter-boat astern, and that Coxon and Duckling were among her occupants. I went to the gangway to receive her: she fell off, then luffed, running a fine semicircle; down dropped her lug, her mizzen brought her right to, and she came alongside with beautiful precision, stopping under the gangway like a carriage at your door.
I caught the line that was flung from her, took a turn with it, and then Coxon and the chief mate stepped on board. The moment he touched the deck, Coxon called to the men who were hanging about the forecastle.
"Get your traps together, and out with you! If ever a man among you stops in my ship five minutes, I'll fling him overboard."
With which terrible threat he walked into the cuddy. Duckling remained at the gangway to see the crew leave the ship. The poor fellows were all ready. They had made up their minds to go ashore, but hardly knew under what circumstances. I had noticed them pressing forward to look into the boat when she came alongside, no doubt expecting to see the uniform of a police-superintendent there. The presence of such an official would, of course, have meant imprisonment to them; they would have been locked up until brought before the magistrates. They were clearly disappointed by the skipper's procedure, for as they came to the gangway, carrying their bags and chests, all kinds of remarks, expressive of their opinion on the matter, were uttered by them.
"The old blackguard," said one, flinging his bag into the boat, and lingering before Duckling and myself in order to deliver his observations, "he hasn't the pluck to have us tried. Pitch us overboard! let him try his (etc.) hand upon the littlest of